About Me

My Passion

I'm a vocal advocate for 1st responder mental health using my lived experience with PTSD and Depression to help educate others by telling the story of my mental health journey through talks, presentations and published writings.

My story includes a deeply personal account of my mental health journey detailing the milestones, mistakes, lessons learned and keys to my success as well as what YOU need to know about PTSD/Depression and its symptoms.

My personal experience with mental health, long time commitment to the fire service and networking with other 1st responders has given me a unique perspective on mental health and its place within the 1st responder community.

The Job

I'm also a firefighter with 27 years of service and currently holding the rank of Acting Platoon Chief for a mid-sized Fire Department in Ontario, Canada.

The various roles and ranks I've held throughout my career include volunteer firefighter, dispatcher, career firefighter, Acting Captain, Captain, Acting Platoon Chief as well as holding positions on the Health and Safety Committee, Association Executive and Association President.


During my mental health journey I've had the opportunity to speak to different fire departments, attend various training courses, conferences, webinars and provide ideas, feedback and opinions to several different 1st responder mental health projects.


Live On Air Interview for the CTV Your Morning Television Show

I was interviewed live on air where the host and I briefly chatted about my PTSD journey and the hope that new CAMH PTSD prevention research is bringing to others who may be challenged with mental health conditions like PTSD.

Video Segment of The Interview


Life Unscripted - Radio Interview with 610CKTB

I was interviewed for the mental health show on 610 Talk Radio called Life Unscripted. The host and I talked quite a bit about my mental health journey, PTSD and first responders and the 2021 CAMH campaign raising funds for more research into things like preventing PTSD.

Show As Published

Standalone Audio


CAMH Today Campaign - Story Spotlight

Had my mental health journey included and spotlighted as part of the 2021 CAMH Today campaign with the goal of preventing suicide and raising money for much needed mental health research. My involvement included not only an interview but also the creation of a video as well.

Article and Video As Published

Standalone video (pre-release)


Toronto Star Article

Interviewed for an article highlighting mental health challenges and the research that CAMH is doing in regards to prevention of those mental health challenges.

Article As Published


Podcast interview for Boots On The Ground Peer Support

Along with the President/Founder of Boots On The Ground I was interviewed during the podcast as part of a media awareness campaign regarding Boots On The Ground Peer Support.

Podcast As Published


Interview for Article

Was interviewed for an article included in the issue of the Canadian Firefighter. The article is titled: "Firefighter takes aim at the stigma around mental health to help others in Ontario " and was written as part of a campaign to raise awareness of the services provided by Boots On The Ground Peer Support

Magazine As Published


Radio Commercial

Voiced a radio commercial as part of a campaign to raise awareness of the services provided by Boots On The Ground Peer Support

Radio Commercial As Broadcast


Interview for Article

Was interviewed for an article included in the April issue of the We Are Warriors Magazine. The article is titled: "Rob Leathen: Breaking Down The Barriers The Raw Struggle of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder" and was written by Samantha Schmidt

Magazine As Published


Guest - Above Ground Podcast

Chatted with hosts Will Foley and Timothy Patrick about my battles with PTSD, depression and suicidal ideation and the things that we as a society and as fire service organizations need to do to promote firefighter and 1st responder mental health.

Podcast As Published


Guest Presenter

Gave a presentation to the current cohort on the role that writing/journalling and art play in a PTSD recovery journey.


Mental Health First Aid for 1st Responders

This was an in-house 4 hour course for Boots On The Ground Volunteer Call-takers to support their efforts in effectively managing calls from 1st responders seeking peer support.


Guest Speaker - PTSD Bunker Gear For Your Brain Zoom Get Together

Chatted with those present about the importance of peer support and 3 different peer support groups including Wings Of Change, Badge of Life Canada and Boots On The Ground. Discussion was from the perspective of a user of peer support and from a provider of peer support.


Volunteer Peer Support Meeting Facilitator

Became a volunteer peer support meeting facilitator for the Wings Of Change peer support organization.


Guest - The 25 Live Podcast

Chatted with host Jim Burneka about my battles with PTSD, depression and suicidal ideation and the things that we as a society and as fire service organizations need to do to promote firefighter mental health.

Podcast As Published (firefightercancerconsultanst website)


Volunteer On Call Peer Support

Became a volunteer on-call peer support person for the Boots On The Ground peer support organization.


Guest - The Courage Wolf Podcast

Talked with host Terry Oliver about 1st responder mental health and how my own battles with PTSD, Depression and Suicidal ideation turned into a journey of post-traumatic growth.

Podcast As Published


Living Works / Center For Suicide Prevention - Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST)

This course teaches you how to prevent suicide by recognizing signs, providing a skilled intervention, and developing a safety plan to keep someone alive.


Interview by The Mighty Staff For PTSD Article

Participated in an interview about my battles with PTSD and depression with staff members of The Mighty. The interview was turned into an article about 1st responders who battle PTSD.

Interview As Published (The Mighty)


Invisible Wounds Conference for 1st Responders

In addition to increasing awareness of how to build resiliency skills to help deal with occupational stress injuries, this conference assists First Responders interested in learning about and addressing relationships issues, anger, and mental health challenges, including, but not limited to, hypervigilance, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, PTSI, and PTSD.

2020-09-17 (2 days)

Assisting Individuals In Crisis

Crisis Intervention is NOT psychotherapy; rather, it is a specialized acute emergency mental health intervention which requires specialized training. As physical first aid is to surgery, crisis intervention is to psychotherapy. Thus, crisis intervention is sometimes called “emotional first aid”. This program is designed to teach participants the fundamentals of, and a specific protocol for, individual crisis intervention.

2020-09-17 (2 days)

Peer Support Training

Peer support training that strictly adheres to the training objectives provided by the "Guidelines for the Practice and Training of Peer Support" published by the Mental Health Commission of Canada.


Guest - Saturday Night Synopsis with William Young

Was a guest on this Facebook Live broadcast talking with correctional officer William Young about all things 1st responder mental health related.

Video As Published (youtube)


Living Works / Center For Suicide Prevention - Start Program

This online course trains you to recognize when someone has thoughts of suicide and take action to connect them to an intervention provider.

2020-06-22 (2 Days)

Virtual Trauma Summit 2020

The Virtual Trauma Summit 2020 took the place of the original actual event, but remained a ‘conference with a difference’. Nine keynote presentations by the World’s leading experts and six pre-recorded workshops describe a range of modalities on trauma treatment.

Notable Keynote Speakers Included

  • Bessel van der Kolk, Psychiatrist and Author of The Body Keeps The Score
  • Peter Levine, Founder of Somatic Experiencing
  • Stephen Porges, Neuroscientist, creator of Polyvagal Theory
  • Gabor Mate, Expert on Addicitions and mind/body illnesses
  • Dan Siegal, Clinical professor of psychiatry and author

Notable Workshops Included

  • CISM - a comprehensive staff support system
  • The Rhythm of Regulation: Building Safety From A Polyvagal Perspective
  • Introduction to Breath, Body and Mind
  • Trauma Healing with Human Givens
  • Oxytocin and Trauma:The healing Power of Love

2020-06-15 (9 Weeks Starting September)

Goal Management Training Study (Homewood Health Research Institute)

Participant in an experimental trial of Goal Management Training (GMT) being conducted online. The study aims to reduce cognitive difficulties and improve everyday functioning in public safety personnel with PTSD. Research has shown that individuals who are experiencing post-traumatic stress often also experience difficulties in many parts of cognitive functioning, like memory, learning, and attention. Such difficulties can have negative impacts, including less productivity at work or home and changes in social functioning. At present, very little research has been done to investigate whether cognitive difficulties can be targeted through a specific treatment approach.

2020-02-20 (2 days)

Mental Health First Aid Course

MHFA Basic is a course intended for adults interacting with adults (18 years and older). This courses focused on the four most common mental health disorders including substance related, mood related, anxiety and trauma related, and psychotic disorders. Participants who took this course are well prepared to interact confidently about mental health with their family, friends, communities, and workplaces


Gravenhurst Fire Speaking Event

Talk and presentation to the department firefighters and senior officers about my mental health journey including the milestones achieved, the mistakes made, lessons learned and PTSD/Depression symptoms as they manifested within me.


Interview For Input/Feedback

Provided input and feedback for the development of a national peer-to-peer support app for 1st responders being developed by Defence Research and Development Canada in conjunction with the Canadian Institute For Public Safety Research and Treatment and RCMP.


Webinar - How To Safely Communicate About Suicide

Words Matter: How to Safely Communicate About Suicide presented by the National Action Alliance For Suicide Prevention.


Invisible Wounds Conference for 1st Responders

In addition to increasing awareness of how to build resiliency skills to help deal with occupational stress injuries, this conference assisted First Responders interested in learning about and addressing relationships issues, anger, and mental health challenges, including, but not limited to, hypervigilance, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, PTSI, and PTSD.

2019-07-25, 2019-10-30

Focus Group Participant

Focus Group for the development of a mental health app for 1st responders run by McMaster University's Faculty of Health Sciences and funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Personal Quotes

Throughout this journey I've had many opportunities to discuss with other 1st responders various topics and issues relating to mental health in the greater 1st responder community. I've made notable comments and taken positions on some of these issues.

Impact of Pandemic On 1st Responder Mental Health

"While I can't speak on behalf of all 1st responders, I can tell you we all share a couple of common traits, we are all "mission specific" and we all "put the needs of others ahead of our own needs". As a firefighter I can honestly say that I am willing to risk my life in situations that are marginally in my favour if it means being able to make a difference in somebody's life. "

"What that means is that in extremely difficult situations that do impact us (1st responders), be it a traumatic emergency incident or continual and repeated exposure to human suffering and death, that almost every 1st responder will bury the emotions and feelings not as a coping mechanism but to be able to actually do the job and satisfy that "mission". As a 1st responder there is no way that I would be able to do my job and do it well as society expects me to do it, if I actually allowed myself to feel the emotions and feelings that those we are serving actually felt. Can you imagine being a 1st responder having to do CPR on an infant AND feeling the emotions that the parents are feeling. We wouldn't be able to do the job expected of us. Where the problem arises is that for many 1st responders those emotions and feelings stay buried and are never properly processed and dealt with hence the increased rates of PTSD/Depression/Anxiety in 1st responders."

"So how does all this relate to the current COVID-19 pandemic and 1st responders. They will continue to heroically do their jobs, to focus on the "mission" and to "put the needs of others ahead of their own needs" and for some, they will pay a mental health price for it later down the road. The one thing that will help all 1st responders is that the significant stress of working through a pandemic is not an isolated incident or an individual incident that one or a few 1st responders is experiencing but an incident that ALL 1st responders are experiencing. While each individuals response to a stressful event is unique to them, there is some truth to the phrase that "there is strength in numbers" and I suspect that many 1st responders will draw on that collective strength to help them through these challenging times."

1st Responder Suicides

“And yet another......... I've said it before and will say it again.....So long as we, as a society, as emergency services organizations keep doing what we're doing, it's my opinion that 1st responder deaths by suicide will continue. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different outcome. We continually say “we are here for you, you are not alone, just reach out” but those who choose suicide didn’t reach out. Many of the sufferers I have networked with have also said they didn’t reach out. I didn't reach out. Regardless of whether it was because of stigma or something else, the point is they didn’t reach out. Instead of standing on the shore watching someone drown in a pond of water and saying to them “we are here for you, you are not alone, just reach out” perhaps its time that we proactively reach in. As rescuers we eventually go into that water to make the rescue. Why do we not do the same thing when someone is drowning from PTSD/Depression/Anxiety?? I ask a very simple question......so just how is what we are currently doing working ....it's not!!”

1st Responder Mindset

“As a 1st responder, you can't walk through water and not get wet, you can't walk through a sewer and not come out smelling like shit and you can't go through a career as a 1st responder doing the things that we do, seeing the things that we see and experiencing the things that we experience and not be affected in some way. There is no shame in that. The problem is the 1st responder mindset is challenged to genuinely accept that because it is never about us, its always about them, the members of our communities that we have sworn to protect and sacrifice ourselves for.”

Expert Panels

“Experts.......nothing like lived experience to make one an expert. No disrespect to the well intentioned educated "experts" but unless you have ridden a police car, fire truck, ambulance, military vehicle or secured societies most hardened criminals all you are is book smart. It goes back to the old cliche...unless you have walked in my boots you will never truly understand. When it comes to mental health lived experience means everything !!”

Leadership On Mental Health

"I agree there is a fundamental change underway surrounding mental health as more people speak up and speak out and the more 1st responder suicides come to the forefront of media attention but I don't see a corresponding fundamental change at the top where leadership on this issue truly matters. There are other influencing factors that are roadblocks to people at the top evolving from just being administrators to being actual leaders. There is the odd one but the change that is happening from the bottom up is occurring much faster then the change from the top down”

The "Just Reach Out" Phrase We Always Hear

“I would add that getting our respective organizations to accept and therefore acknowledge without the typical platitudes things like...
1) yes 1st responder suicides is a crisis and are as equally an organizational priority as physical injuries are
2) the shear number of 1st responder suicides makes it an organizations problem not an individuals problem
3) sanctuary trauma does exist and does have an impact on an OSI sufferer and in many cases only makes the issues worse
4) because IT IS an organizational problem, when you say "just reach out" you are putting the onus on the individual for the solution to an organizational problem and not on the organization where it belongs (see #2)
5) because it is an organizational problem a proactive approach by the organization is required”

My Writings

Some of my writings have been published on several different mental health and publishing websites including:

2020-09-22 (publishing date)

The i'Mpossible Project

Provided content to be included in this upcoming release. Story provided is titled "To the Brink and Back With My Good Friend Ego"

This book is available for pre-order


Alone With Your Thoughts - Nothing More Scary

When you have PTSD and depression there is nothing more scary then being awake and alone with your thoughts in the still and darkness of the night.

Article As Published (Medium)

Article As Published (sicknotweak.com)

Article As Published (The Mighty)


PTSD The Truth / I Did My Job

Given the circumstances that were absolutely beyond my control, I did my absolute best in a situation that was a no-win situation, at an emergency incident that was chaotic and caused by somebody else's morally wrong decision and senseless actions. That decision ultimately, very tragically, very traumatically, in a very graphic and gruesome way, took the life of an innocent person. That's how I feel...now...but for far too many years, they were not the feelings that dominated my thoughts..

Article As Published (Medium)

Article As Published (Vocal.Media)

Article As Published (sicknotweak.com)

Article As Published (The Mighty)


Not Cancelled

Submitted essay for inclusion in the non-fiction anthology titled "Not Cancelled" by Wintertickle Press.

2020 started out just like 2019 did for me, full of anger with everybody and everything and with a collection of negative beliefs about everybody, everything, society, and more specifically, the moral character of the collective society I am part of. You see I’m battling PTSD. Along with the many symptoms that come along with PTSD like the aforementioned anger, also come many cognitive distortions and distorted beliefs about others and society.....

Article As Published (Contained within Kobo e-Book "Not Cancelled")


10 Keys To My Success(Progress)...So Far!

I, like so many 1st responders have been burdened, or gifted depending on your perspective, with PTSD and depression from a career of firefighting. I have been challenged to navigate this whole PTSD recovery process and have had some success. There are still many areas and aspects that I need to work on and address but I am moving forward which is always a good thing. While I’m not where I want to be, nor where I need to be I’m sure glad I’m not where I was.

Article As Published (Medium)

Article As Published (Vocal.Media)

Article As Published (The Mighty)

Article As Published (sicknotweak.com)


Out Of Focus Puzzle Approach To Dealing With PTSD Symptoms

PTSD is a mental health challenge that plagues many 1st responders and I was no different. 27 years of firefighting had left me battling it and depression burdening me with many of the common problematic symptoms that tend to come along with PTSD. There were intrusive symptoms, avoidance symptoms, alterations in cognition and mood and arousal and reactivity type symptoms.

Article As Published (Medium)

Article As Published (VOCAL.MEDIA)

Article As Published (The Mighty)


10 Things Being a 1st Responder Battling PTSD During This Pandemic Has Taught Me

1. Some of the negative consequences of having PTSD are proving to be quite beneficial during this pandemic. Who knew that having PTSD was a good thing?


The Gift Of PTSD

Therapy for PTSD isn’t just about dealing with traumatic memories but also fixing the person that has been changed emotionally and cognitively by the exposure to traumatic experiences. To do this requires one to actively engage in self-reflection, a difficult and many times extremely painful exercise.

Article As Published (thought Catalog)

Article As Published (Medium)

Article As Published (sicknotweak.com)


Meeting My Therapist

So my first visit with my psychotherapist, how did it go? It was amazing! I was early, very early, as I always am. I sat in the waiting room looking around at all the signs, posters and books dealing with trauma, PTSD, support systems and the like. In that 20 minutes while I sat there (yes I was that early), the gravity of why I was actually there set in and manifested itself as what I call an "almost".

Article As Published (yourlifeskill.com)

Article As Published (sicknotweak.com)


The Dawn Of Ineffective Strategies

The death of my mother and how it impacted me, wow, where do I start except at the beginning. My childhood, actually my teenage years, was no different then anybody else’s growing up in the time period of the late 70’s and early 80’s or at least I thought was no different, but then again, I was 15 years old, what did I really know.

This article was written by request and utilized in a grief education program for 1st responders


Hostage To My Captor

Stockholm Syndrome — that condition that causes hostages to develop a psychological alliance with their captors during captivity. I believe I have developed the mental health equivalent with my captor, PTSD/Major Depressive Disorder (MDD).

Article As Published (sicknotweak.com)


The Labyrinth

In 2019 I started therapy at a clinic for my occupationally caused PTSD and Depression. This clinic is situated in an old renovated century home turned place of healing and surrounded by beautiful gardens, a tall hedge row on the north side, a beautiful scenic pond area and a large maze like collection of rocks, stones and wood chips.


EMDR: What's It Like

What’s it like using EMDR in a therapy session to deal with a problematic incident? My therapy session starts like every other previous therapy session, with idle chat with my therapist about how my previous week was.

Article As Published (yourlifeskill.com)

Article As Published (thoughtcatalog.com)

Article As Published (vocal.media)

Article As Published (Medium)


Stigma and The Elephant In The Room

Early in February 2019 I knew something wasn’t quite right with me. The continual arguments with my wife, the emotional outbursts, unexpected crying and anger, anger with everybody and everything lead me to the conclusion that I needed help. I reached out for it and started weekly therapy for what was likely PTSD. Stigma, “screw the stigma” I thought, so I went public with my PTSD battles.

Article As Published (yourlifeskill.com)


The Hollow Words I Live By

Living with PTSD and major depressive disorder, I was shocked to learn, and unfortunately experience on a daily basis, just how numb my emotions and feelings have become.

Article As Published (sicknotweak.com)


My Love/Hate Relationship With Stigma

The sound of that very word strikes anger in many of us burdened with mental health challenges. It also, unfortunately, strikes fear in many others and is one of the more significant factors in stopping many with mental health challenges in actually reaching out for help.

Article As Published (sicknotweak.com)

Article As Published (vocal.media)


10 Things I've Learned

1. Your therapist doesn’t fix you. Your therapist is there to help you fix yourself!


10 Things I Wish Others Knew About PTSD

1. PTSD IS NOT a mental disorder, it is a brain injury with physical changes occurring to various parts of the brain like the amygdala, hippocampus and pre-frontal cortex because of exposure to traumatic experiences

Useful Books & Apps

Throughout this journey I've read a ton of books to learn everything I could about PTSD and utilized a handful of useful apps to help me manage day to day.

Useful Books

Useful Apps