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About "What My Eyes Have Seen"

“It was horrendous. I’ve seen nothing like it,” were the first words I said to 1st Lieutenant Chris Gray, as he and his crew relieved the crew of Craigieburn Tanker 1 at approximately 11:30 pm on Saturday 7 February 2009. As many as 400 individual fires were recorded on this day and would forever be known as Black Saturday.

Two years after the fires I was diagnosed with Chronic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Three years later, I had a complete mental breakdown.

To be a firefighter takes courage, to be a volunteer firefighter takes commitment. To run towards a bushfire when everyone else is fleeing takes the firefighter spirit.

Watching, hearing and comforting a family who lost everything except the clothes on their back, a parent crying out in despair because their child is trapped inside a burning house, the body of a motorcyclist lying on the road or the cries of pain of people trapped in a motor vehicle after a collision. These are regular things we as firefighters contend with when we turn out to a call.

The memories aren’t forgotten when we return to the station, they stay with us. After all, we are only human and have a breaking point.

You can’t unsee What My Eyes Have Seen

About John S. Payne

John is a veteran who served the Victorian community within Corrections, Government Investigations, and as a Volunteer Firefighter. During a career spanning nearly 3 decades, he worked on many incidents, including the Black Saturday bushfire of February 2009 for which he was honoured with the National Emergency Medal. As a direct result of his service, he was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) a condition he has lived with since 2009.

John wrote 'What My Eyes Have Seen', to share his lived experiences with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and is passionate about advocating for mental health and suicide awareness to the greater community and encourages people to get help.

John hopes his story will help reduce the stigma associated with mental health and increase the understanding of mental health conditions like depression, anxiety and PTSD for first responders, correctional officers, their colleagues, family, and friends.

One of John’s key messages is: ‘Reach out early – you will be supported and don’t suffer in silence.’ Encouraging early help-seeking is a crucial priority in any effective workplace mental health strategy.



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The Talk 'It' To Zero initiative focuses on educating the wider community of Post Traumatic Stress associated with first responders, their families and friends. Including fire fighters, paramedics and more. View more information about the initiative on the website.