PATRICK J. KENNY has been a member of the fire service for over 38 years, and before retiring in January 2021, served as the Fire Chief in Hinsdale and Western Springs, Illinois. He has been a Chief Officer for over 25 years and a speaker in multiple countries on Mayday for Mental Health® for more than a decade. He is the international best-selling author of TAKING THE CAPE OFF: How to Lead Through Mental Illness, Unimaginable Grief and Loss and has articles published in the areas of mental health, leadership, fire safety, and fire code challenges. He was awarded the Fire Chief of the Year in 2004 by the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association. He was awarded the Fire Engineering/International Society of Fire Service Instructors (ISFSI) George D. Post Instructor of the Year Award for 2020.
My son, Sean, died by suicide at the age of 20 after a 15-year battle with mental illness. I began speaking about his journey in 2009. In 2015, my wife Eileen and I added a slide to the presentation comparing brain cancer to mental illness to reflect mental illness is a physical illness, not a character deficiency. Ten years later, my wife Eileen passed from brain cancer. The day before she died, she made me promise to write the story of Sean's journey. I kept my promise.