Suncorp: I'm a firefighter with PTSD – please stop discriminating against fireys with mental illnesses
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Feeling gutted. After almost 18 years in the NSW Fire Brigade, I was recently medically retired due to anxiety and depression. After many years of attending critical incidents such as fatal car accidents, fires, suicides and major building collapse it all got too much for me. I have felt intense self-hatred, fear, and more often, numbness. I have at times been close to suicide. With the help of family, friends and counselling I am moving on with my life.
The Fire Brigade acknowledged the toll that my career as a firey had taken on my mental health and told me to apply for a pension from the death and disability fund that I’ve paid into since I joined the service. Yet now Suncorp Insurance say I'm not mentally traumatised. I'm entitled to nothing.
To say I feel like I have been kicked in the guts is an understatement. How can they know what I have gone through? How can they judge what I have suffered?
How do they know what cutting a dead teenager's body out of a car in the middle of the night in the rain feels like? Or what it's like to recover a charred child's body from her bedroom while her parents are screaming outside. I had had enough and I couldn't take it anymore.
Suncorp told me they did an internet search on me, saw that I am advertising as a guitar teacher and thus decided I have a lucrative career as a musician and was therefore not entitled to the pension or any assistance.
Do they know that teaching a few lessons a week at $35 does not pay the rent anywhere in Sydney? That sometimes students don't show up? That in school holidays nobody shows up and you have no income at all? That most gigs in Sydney are paid with a meal and whatever tips are in the jar?
On top of the emotional trauma from not being "strong enough" to stick it out in the fire brigade, to be knocked back like this, and have my experience, efforts and mental health discounted like this is disgusting.
I’m not just fighting this for me. I’ve heard of dozens of other fireys who are receiving similar treatment from Suncorp. What’s the point of a death and disability fund if they don’t include mental illness in it? I'm not backing down, because this is not fair.
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