"...and that's how a picture is worth a million words!!! Amazing"
- Firefighter, Houston
"This is amazing!!Never stop doing such amazing art!!"
- Paramedic, Perth, Australia
"Your book was given to me as a gift for my birthday about a month ago. I was so excited to get through the pages to see more pics, but I was so overcome with emotions that I have tucked away for years and years , it took me almost 2 weeks to finish it. It is the most beautiful gift I have ever been given. The way you capture images shows so much intensity, so much emotion and feeling. You get right to the heart of why I do this job and love it, and hate it, so much. The raw emotion is almost too much at times, but I also needed this reminder of how much I really do love this job. I almost gave up and threw in he towel, but after reading your book I felt so refreshed to know someone understands how intense day to day can really be. I thank you, and am looking forward to your next book !!" - Jodi Beck, EMT
"Every time i see one of your amazing works of art my stomach flips, after 30 years in EMS they bring back so many memories" - Paramedic, NYC
I've been fortunate enough to live in several countries and experience many cultures from around the world. Travel....Music....Photography...Art, throw in a little Paramedic work and Firefighting for excitement and that's me.
I'm passionate about raising mental health awareness for first responders, many of these images are based on real calls I've attended over a 15 year career as a full time paramedic and firefighter. I put a lot of emotion in my work and as you look through these images you may connect with them if you're a fellow first responder. If you've never worked in emergency services then these images will give you a glimpse into our world.
Thanks for visiting my page and feel free to use the 'contact me' link above if you would like to get in touch.
All images © 2011-2019 DanSun PhotoArt
This demon skull represents stigma, shame, fear, OSI and PTSD; the pheonix represents recovery and mental wellness. I hope that one day, this demon will be defeated, and this phoenix will be prominent in all areas of emergency services.
This piece honours all of our fallen brothers and sisters who have fallen to their mental injuries. It's their sacrifice that fuels my passion and desire to eliminate the ignorance and stigma of psychological trauma that still seems to be so prominent.
It's the space between day and night when they come.
When my consciousness fades away to sleep, and I can no longer defend my mind.
These organic monsters invade my psyche and fill it with images and emotions of horror and fright while I rest.
When I wake the residue of fear, terror and dread linger until I'm able to rebuild my mental defences.
I stay awake as long as possible, so I can fall asleep quickly - when the space between day and night is small.
I used to look forward to sleeping, but now it scares me.
When you've reached the point where you just don't give a shit anymore, and you would just rather not feel anything - then that's when support from your family, supervisors and peers has the most impact.
Managers, supervisors and peers can have a profound effect on both recovery and severity of impairment post mental injury. Let's have each other's backs and look out for each other.
Why would you work your butt off for a service that tells you, ”I can replace you with any one of the many people lined up to take your job, if you don’t like it, there’s the door”? – And how’s that beneficial for your mental well being to work in an environment like that? I figure you have three choices:
1. Make positive changes in your workplace, but be smart about it. Do your research and explain to your supervisors why these changes will benefit everyone in the service -including them.
2. Change your perspective about your workplace. Try to limit who gets your f*cks and walk away from negative chitter chatter. Be selective of who and what gets your attention and energy.
3. You can quit and find an employer who appreciates and values your skills and experience.
I’ve met and corresponded with thousands of my peers from all over the world, and I’ve learned that a significant contributing factor to job-related stress is a toxic work environment. Many of the services I’ve visited have implemented excellent, preventative mental health programs that have benefited the mental wellbeing of their employees – others view their workers as just ”meat in a seat” to fill a gap in the schedule. Increased staff retention, performance, engagement, and decreased sick time are only a few of the benefits of making your team feel valued and appreciated.
There's not enough space to do CPR in a helicopter - unless you only need to use your fingertips.
Do you walk your demon or does it walk you? For me, it's a bit of both. When I travel to exhibit my art and speak about post-traumatic growth, I share the steps I've taken to reconfigure my mind and become stronger and healthier than I was before my impairment. I think the impression I sometimes give is that people who are experiencing this growth are always in this state of happiness and well being. For me, there's good days and bad, the difference is that when I wake up and feel crappy, I recognize it as a chemical change in my brain and do things to correct it. Getting out of bed, going for a walk, watching a movie, exercising or doing something I wouldn't usually do that day helps me get out of my slump.
Most of the time I'm like the medic on the left of this image. Although that demon is collared, he's always trying to escape and attack me. This time I'm ready for him.
When the Devil comes When the Devil came to me, he didn't have horns and a pitchfork. He was methodical at changing my perceptions and made me believe I was weak and different than my peers. Not only did the Devil make me think death was a good escape, but he also made me desire it like a warm cozy blanket that would make all my emotions disappear. He gave me a solution but was also the cause of all my worries, and that's how he manipulated me.
Like the medic in this image, I welcomed the sweet life of suicide and almost surrendered myself to this monster. I'm lucky, I was able to peek behind the curtain and realize how much trouble I was in. I received the help I needed, and it saved my life. If you're in the grips of this demon get help to escape his manipulation and live the life you deserve.
Often we're so surprised when a first responder takes their life. They show no signs of struggle or of the pain they're in. I know what it's like because I was there once myself. We're afraid that others will perceive us as being weak and we get very good at hiding our torment and agony from our family and co-workers. I call this the 'false okay' and have created a few images portraying this state of mind.
Here are a few signs and symptoms that may be a clue that things aren't as okay as they seem:
-Loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy
-Withdrawn and distant -Irritable behaviour, angry outburst, or acting aggressively
-Taking too many risks or doing things that could cause them harm
-Being jumpy or easily startled
The next first responder suicide may be closer to home than you think. I think it's worth the risk to ask a co-worker or family member if they're okay - and when they undoubtedly say "I'm fine" - ask them again but look them in the eye and tell them why you're asking. Give examples of the changes in behaviour that you've noticed. Tell them it's okay, and you will listen if/when they want to talk. Comfort will come from feeling accepted and engaged so offer to just hang out if they're not ready to talk. Here's a good article on how to help someone with PTSD from helpguid.org https://www.helpguide.org/articles/ptsd-trauma/helping-someone-with-ptsd.htm
Real heroes don't have super powers or get paid millions to play sports. Real heroes risk their own physical and mental well being to save others.