I could say many things about these cartoons and my personal experiences, but I am going to give this space up for a friend who is following the noble calling of helping firefighters save ourselves, so we may continue to save others. Sarah Gura and I found each other online, and I must say from my perspective, it was like fate stepping in to say “Hey, it’s time to get off your butt, someone out there needs help”. So, I asked Sarah to tag-team with this cartoon and share her thoughts and expertise. Please, read and share…


This particular cartoon illustrates something familiar to me as a shrink who specializes in treating firefighters. It is also a very intense image –and another powerful punch from Paul Combs. The truth tends to hit us hard in the fire service. In this case, it hits unfairly and tragically. The hope I have for this cartoon is that it is like a good seed. A seed somehow attracts all the nutrients it needs from the soil so that it becomes something naturally beautiful. I hope this artwork captures your attention. I hope it pulls in your awareness, your empathy, compassion, understanding, and your concern.
I hope firefighters realize that this is real; and I hope that a firefighter who is going through exactly what this image portrays wakes up and sees that he is not alone. So many firefighters ask me to tell them how many firefighters I treat in the therapy office. They want to know for what, and if they’re making progress. Firefighters want to hear first if this is real before they step forward and admit they are struggling. Well here is your answer! How can this image be here if it didn’t convey some sort of truth? How could it have the effect it will have, as firefighters view it and feel the feelings it forces them to experience if it was not true or relevant? You are not alone. You do not have to feel this way, or go through this!
I imagine a part II cartoon in which the crew of this drowning firefighter come in and cut off that ankle-weight of pride and save this firefighter! This is called Peer Support –and that is a culture change that is much more needed in the fire service than a bunch of counseling. While I am happy and honored to provide therapy for firefighters, I’m also looking forward to co-leading (with firefighters) a major culture-change in the fire service that will not tolerate this and that will actually rescue their own! My hope is that firefighters promote themselves to human status, which is REAL and way above superhero-status which is just fantasy.

Sarah A. Gura, M.A., L.C.P.C.Gura Clinical Services,
LLCFirefighter Psychological Support

You may also contact Jada Hudson at:


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  1. I very much admire you Paul and Dr, Gura for your continued efforts to focus attention on this terrible issue. As a 31 year veteran firefighter I experienced alcoholism, survived a suicide attempt and now 5 years into retirement still struggle with effects my career had on my life, on my very being. If a cultural shift can not be accomplished in the near future I fear how many more firefighters will parish by their own hands. I have worked with Chief Jeff Dill and presented with him RIF in Denver a year ago, his work is also very important. I believe there needs to be more clinicians trained in dealing with the firefighter mindset specifically to save these at risk firefighters. As an alcoholic firefighter who has worked with many other alcoholic firefighters I know that more progress can be made one on one and face to face in a short period of time than any forced rehab can accomplish. I believe that departments also have to invest in saving their employees and treating them as an investment as a human being and stop thinking of them as a liability to be dealt with and pushed aside.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Paul, is it okay to use the illustration “If only it was this obvious” for a flyer for our Peer Support Team for IAFF Local 1619 in Prince George’s County, MD? One of the issues we have is that our members tend to make callous comments about suicidal patients upon return to the station, not knowing that many of their co-workers may have thought about suicide or have loved ones who committed suicide. This poster will help us educate our membership better.

    Liked by 1 person

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