Navigating PTSD as a First Responder
3 mins read

Navigating PTSD as a First Responder

About Cory:

Cory Thayer - Firefighter

I have been a firefighter/ Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) in the Rochester, NY area for over 10 years. I am a fifth generation firefighter and am currently on the job in Greece, NY. I am also the President of a professional firefighter motorcycle club, Axemen M/C New York Chapter 5.

Our organization is a 501(c)(3) that raises money for charity and promotes brotherhood in the fire service nationwide.


The turning point for me was December of 2017.

In the fire service and Emergency Medical Services many things can contribute to PTSD or Complex PTSD. Some things can trigger some and not others – for me, my trigger was a car accident with pediatric fatalities on Halloween in 2017. After the incident occurred, my girlfriend at the time was more concerned about me being late to her apartment than the event I just went through. So, I bottled it up like many things I have been through and tried to move on, but this particular incident kept me awake some nights and would replay in my head. 

After some time of having these issues and talking with friends and family, I decided that my mental health was not doing well and I needed help processing the issues I was having from that incident (depression, issues with relationship). I reached out to our Employee Assistance Program and received some sessions from a therapist to discuss my emotions and experiences, to better clear my mind and process. This was a huge help in my personal recovery and emotional well-being and lead me to some breakthroughs in my inner self that I hadn’t realized I needed.



  • Finding people with like-minded experience to talk to is a huge help in the process.
  • Sometimes non-emergency service friends can also be a resource, even when I thought they might not understand.

Professional resources

  • Reaching out to therapists or employee assistance programs to help talk through things.
  • Remember – seeking help is not a weakness.
  • Remind yourself that seeking help won’t get you pulled off the job.

Working out

Wind therapy

  • Outdoors is a great place to clear your headspace; I choose to do mine on a motorcycle.


If you’re fighting depression, you’re not alone, and you may work with guys you look up to, that look like they have it all figured out and always have their head up high that struggle with the same thing. 

The fire service is getting better at dropping the “suck it up” attitude and realizing that mental health needs to be addressed. We all want long, healthy careers and keeping up on the mental as well as physical demands is part of the job. I want to reiterate that just because you need to seek help, does not make you weak and won’t pull you off the job. The fire service loses more people to suicide than to Line of Duty Deaths (LODD), and if we can lower that number by getting people more mental health resources, it helps our community. 

If you operate through a large emergency scene that could be traumatic or have multiple little ones that bottle up, don’t wait, talk with someone you trust, reach out, and get it off your chest. You will feel better afterwards.

– Cory Thayer, Rochester, New York, USA

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