Wellbeing resource

Journey to balance: Michelle McKenzie’s letters

At our Beyond Brave summit, St John Ambulance EMT Michelle McKenzie shared her story ‘Journey to balance’. She also read a letter penned to herself, acknowledging her capability, reaffirming her commitment to the job but with new insights.

Bravery, a concept many first responders resist, was unpacked and vulnerably explored at our 2023 Beyond Brave summit. One of the leaders in first responder wellbeing in both Australia and New Zealand, Dr Kristen Hamling, shook things up this year by bringing Michelle, a St John’s Ambulance Officer, direct from the therapy room to the summit audience. What doesn’t scream brave, if it isn’t a first responder disarming themselves to share their story of pain and courage? Michelle captivated us by openly sharing her journey through role and identity confusion, burnout and a desire to protect her family by absorbing all of the trauma, grief, frustration, fear and helplessness.  Michelle’s version of bravery, like many first responders, kept her going until it didn’t.

Michelle shared her story ‘Journey to balance’, an insight into what ‘bravery’ really means in the emergency services, a version that is sustaining and protective- which captured the hearts of the audience and resonated with many first responders and their families. Beyond her story of struggling, Michelle returned to work and on re-entry penned another letter to herself to acknowledge her power and capability, and to reaffirm her commitment to herself and to the job, but with new insights and priorities. Michelle generously gave Fortem permission to share her letters with you.


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