Volunteer High School senior Kira Jones was recently recognized by the Tennessee Fire Chiefs Association at their annual conference in Pigeon Forge.
Jones wrote an essay titled “Firefighters: Are They the Ones Who Need Saving?” as homework for her English class.
The subject of the essay, however, was inspired by her time in the recently established Fire Management Services Career and Technical Education (CTE) class at Volunteer.
In the essay, Jones explained how working long hours, walking in unfamiliar circumstances and regularly seeing tragedies weigh heavily on firefighters and first responders.
The essay draws attention to this and to the fact that mental health problems, including increased suicide rates among firefighters, are the result.
John Murnane, who recently retired from the Kingsport Fire Department, teaches the Fire Management Services class at Volunteer.
Murnane, who brings his 29 years of firefighting expertise to the students, regularly hosts guest speaker visits with the class and shares their knowledge on specific areas of emergency services.
On one such occasion, Murnane invited Jonathan Seay, a community therapist from The Next Step Behavioral Health, to share his knowledge about post-traumatic stress disorder related to first responders.
Shortly after Mr. Seay’s visit, Kira Jones presented Murnane with the essay she had completed in English class. She told Murnane that Seay’s presentation inspired her to write something about the subject and raise awareness.
In the essay, Jones points out the irony of how those who put their lives on the line for others often themselves need help with issues that aren’t always visible on the outside.
She discusses common symptoms and signs of mental health issues, as well as some of the typical coping mechanisms that people often turn to. She also cites recommended interventions to help someone who may be suffering from a mental health problem without treatment.
When he first read the essay, Murnane said he thought it should be shared with local fire chiefs, and with Jones’ permission, he did just that. . When Church Hill Fire Chief Luke Wood read the essay, he felt the same and forwarded it to the Tennessee Fire Chiefs Association.
Association representatives invited Jones and Murnane to attend their annual conference in Pigeon Forge on April 6, where Jones was recognized and presented with a plaque thanking her for her work.