Luke: “I’d been keeping it all to myself for so long – talking to someone helped unload my mind”

Firefighter Luke Kavanagh shares how he began his journey to improve his mental wellbeing by visiting our app – My Fire Fighters Charity – before getting in touch with us for further counselling support.

Everyone’s journey with us is different. For some, it may involve reaching out directly to seek support, while others find our online resources, articles and courses beneficial.

For Luke Kavanagh, a wholetime firefighter with Hereford and Worcester FRS and on-call with Gloucestershire, his journey began on our app – My Fire Fighters Charity – before he later received remote counselling.

He now hopes, by sharing each stage of his journey, he’ll inspire others to explore our health and wellbeing resources and reach out for a helping hand, should they need it.

“I’ve known about the Charity’s services from word go, but I only really understood the breadth of what’s available to us when I went wholetime and heard about how others had been supported,” says Luke, 36.

“I learnt it’s there for you daily, not just when you have an issue or need help.”

Luke began experiencing mental health challenges at the start of 2023, after he was diagnosed with kidney stones which meant he needed time off work from both his roles.

“It all triggered a lot of emotions in my own personal life,” says Luke. “I felt really, really low, it was like a spiral effect. I’m quite active and I really enjoy my job, then suddenly I had neither of those things.

“That all had a massive knock-on effect on some other things as well, and I just felt my mental health declining quite rapidly. For the first couple of months I really started questioning a lot of things in my life, right down to my work and even my own self-worth.

“I was feeling really anxious and that was actually causing a lot of mood swings and anger.

“I travel across the border between Hereford and Gloucestershire for work, and that 45 minutes in the car every day was like free thinking time – I’d carry my emotions with me and spend too long inside my own head, thinking about them. I’d sometimes think, ‘What is the point?’ They became dark thoughts and that’s what triggered me to get that early help.

“I knew by talking to someone, it would help to unburden me of that. I wanted to unload my mind.”

Luke spoke initially to his colleague, who reminded him about My Fire Fighters Charity, and the help available to him on there.

“I was back on modified duties and recognised I didn’t feel myself – I was back in work and watching everyone else on operational duties, while I didn’t really know what I was doing at that point, and that’s when I recognised I needed some help,” adds Luke.

“My colleague mentioned about the Charity’s app and the online courses on there. I downloaded it that afternoon and looked through some of the content.

“I came across the Wellbeing Hub and the Low Mood bitesize course stood out to me straight away. It described a lot of the emotions I was feeling at the time.

“After I finished the course, I felt I’d benefit from speaking to someone and I saw the quick online form I could fill in to enquire about support. I filled it in straight away and someone got in touch with me from there.”

Luke spoke with our Assessment Practitioner Team and later one of our Psychological Therapists, who took the time to understand his needs. He was then offered a series of remote counselling sessions.

“I knew I needed to talk to someone at that point. I’d been overthinking everything for so long and keeping it all to myself,” says Luke.

“Speaking to the Charity’s Psychological Therapists at first was great. It put me at ease, knowing they were there… It gave me a chance to unload all the thoughts in my mind and have someone to listen and then point me in the right direction.

“I found the counselling sessions really helpful from there.”

He adds: “For me, downloading the app was the first stage which drew me in to the possibilities and support there. I didn’t even know what I was suffering with at the time, but it opened that door.

“Then the Bitesize course was my next step, showing that some of the things I’d been feeling were in that course. And then finally, getting in touch with you was my final step. It was a journey.”

Luke took part in this year’s British Firefighter Challenge, while raising funds for us, as a thank you for the support he received.

“I just want to try and raise as much awareness as I can now, while fundraising,” says Luke. “The Charity is a big safety net for us, for life. You never know how it might be able to help you. It’s so easy, it’s all there on your phone, and it’s such a quick process when you do.”

If you feel you’d benefit from our health and wellbeing support, we may be able to help you. Call our Support Line on 0800 389 8820, make an enquiry online or register for My Fire Fighters Charity now and visit the ‘Access Support’ tab.

You can also join our ‘Share Your Story’ Group in the app, by clicking on the ‘Groups’ tab, to chat to others who have received our support or enquire about sharing your own story.