Pat Kenny is a retired Chief this is from his web page www.patrickjkenny.com
I have always believed that being a firefighter is a vocation, and if called, God gives firefighters a “Cape” to enable them to go places and do things that others cannot or should not have to do to protect and save lives. As a father and husband, the number-one responsibility is to protect my blood family, my wife, and my three children. As a fire chief, my number-one responsibility is to protect my extended family, the members of my department. I faithfully put on that “Cape” every day with both families in mind. However, when the person I wanted to save the most was in a battle for his life, the Cape failed me.
As a father, the self-identified protector, I experienced the pain and helplessness of watching my youngest son Sean, struggle with mental illness for most of his life. I could not protect him from his struggles with mental illness or save his life when he died by suicide at the age of only twenty.
I have taken on Sean’s mission through speaking and sharing with audiences that mental illness is a proven physical illness, not a character weakness, and indeed it is not a choice any more than one chooses cancer.
In my presentations, I use a side by side comparison of mental illness and brain cancer. One day, my wife Eileen, who was always by my side, encouraging me to share Sean’s message, without any significant symptoms or warning, was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an incurable brain cancer. I’m a big believer in signs, and both my wife and I wondered, did we somehow know what was about to strike our family when we choose, of all illnesses, brain cancer as the comparison?
Before my wife passed and joined our son Sean in heaven, she made me promise to continue to spread Sean’s message that mental illness is a physical illness and to write a book. I’ve honored both of these promises and intend to continue to do so with the same passion Sean and Eileen lived their lives.