Kern County, CA Local 1301 member Derek Robinson wants fire fighters and other first responders to know help is available for those suffering with post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI).
Robinson is living proof that treatment works and a happier life is possible and it’s okay to ask for help. Robinson tells his story of recovery in his newly published book Continue: Surviving the Darkness, Choosing to Live.
“Like many others, I was fearful that if I asked for help, it would hold me back in my career and my life. Nothing could have been further from the truth,” says Robinson. “I am telling my story to let others know it’s okay to ask for help. If my story can help just one person choose life over suicide, it will be worth it.”
In 2015, the IAFF launched a “Stamp Out the Stigma Campaign” to embolden fire fighters experiencing post-traumatic stress or other behavioral health issues to ask for help processing the trauma they’ve witnessed.
Robinson, who was president of Local 1301 at the time, was one of the campaigns biggest advocates. He never wanted to get a call or read a story about another brother or sister who believed suicide was their best option for dealing with post-traumatic stress.
It took some time before Robinson admitted to experiencing the signs of post-traumatic stress in himself. Like other fire fighters, Robinson sees trauma every day on the job. Over the years, the cumulative effect began to weigh heavily on his shoulders. But one incident in particular had a more profound effect and led him to reach out for help.
“After going through treatment, I found myself asking why I had waited,” says Robinson. “I wish I had done it sooner because now I can go back to the things I love – like my job, swimming and spending time with family and friends without feeling anxious or depressed.”
He first shared his story on Facebook. The response was overwhelmingly positive and supportive. Because his words helped them, many IAFF members encouraged him to write more, maybe even write a book.
The more stories he wrote down, the more Robinson realized he did have enough material for a book. He compiled the stories and told them in a way that is relatable to all first responders and their families.
His book is available on Amazon.