Alberta firefighter speaks on the importance of brotherhood and mental health awareness

Firefighter Sean Godfrey is pictured outside Station Number 10 in Edmonton, Alberta on September 27, 2020. Godfrey shares his story on the importance of brotherhood within the firehall.
Photo by Conchita Galvez

Sean Godfrey leaned comfortably against a fire truck and recalled the competitiveness, high stakes of getting the job, and tough emergency calls. The 25-year-old firefighter discussed the importance of relying on the crew and how the stigma of seeking mental help is changing. 

Godfrey began his firefighting career eight years ago knowing very well the competitiveness of landing the job. The agility tests and written components challenged both physical and mental aspects.

“Some guys work seven to eight years to get through the training,” Godfrey said. It’s the stakes of you spending all of that time and then possibly messing up and losing it all.”

Those who beat the odds and get the job are expected to deal with tough calls of drug overdoses and drunk driving incidents. 

Godfrey recalls one particular drunk driving incident, where a woman leaving the grocery store was struck and killed. “That crash wasn’t a fluke or an accident. It was a life lost because someone was in the wrong,” said Godfrey. 

It’s those tough calls that leave Godfrey grateful for his team. Acknowledging the Captains and other firefighters, Godfrey described the changing stigma around seeking mental health help. 

“From when I first started to now, the stigma of seeking help is changing. Taking care of your mental health is just as important as your physical health,” said Godfrey. “Since we are such a tight knit group, it’s beneficial to just go over a certain incident together,” he said.

A call representative with Saskatchewan First Responders Mental Health, said they provide 24/7 emergency call service to firefighters and police officers. The services include mobile crisis unit, assistance to family members and friends of first responders, and mental health checks. 

The captains who regularly check in on the fire crew described the guys as one big family. “It’s almost like having 13 teenage sons,”Captain Thomas Groot said with a chuckle. 

Despite the severity of certain calls, Godfrey thanks the mental health programs and crew members. When asked about his favourite part of the job, Godfrey smiled and pointed to a firefighter passing by. 

“The best part are the guys you work with,” said Godfrey. “As long as everyone does their job and takes care of each other, things run smoothly”.

Overall, Godfrey described his job as something that makes him genuinely happy. “I’m lucky to have a job where I enjoy coming to work every day,” he said. “I love the variety of each day”.

Godfrey smiled and recalled the day where he saved a kitten wedged underneath concrete. “You never know what is going to happen,” he said. 

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