Evansville Fire starts peer support team

Local News

It’s common to hear about veterans and soldiers suffering from PTSD, but first responders can feel it too. It has never been more apparent than a week after a tragic crash killed two Evansville babies.

They rescue and revive, and help to heal. They serve with bravery and respect. But what happens when those heroes hurt, too?

EFD Fire Investigator, Kim Garrett has an answer.  “Even though sometimes we try not to act like it, but we’re all human and we’re just normal people,” she says.

Many police officers, firefighters, and paramedics may not get the help they need. Garrett hopes that’s about to change inside the EFD. At their administration building, a team of 8 firefighters focus on the darkest hours and how to bring a brother or sister back from the brink.

“We’re dealing with people in the worst times of their life,” says EFD Lieutenant, Darryl Adler.

Garrett says the day-to-day stress can add up, or just one traumatic event can do mental damage. “We do this day in and day out,” she says, “it’s not if you’re going to make a critical incident, it’s when.”

For District Chief, Mike Kane, his most recent “when” was last week. He was there, where Prince and Princess Carter died at the end of an Evansville Police chase.

“We see stuff almost routinely,” Kane says pausing. “The injuries, the fires, people on their worst days.”

The EFD peer support team launched last month. It took one crisis for the department to start this team. Garrett says it was a firefighter who went down during training.

“His crew was on scene and it was a pretty scary situation,” she says. “Fortunately, everything turned out okay with him.”

Evansville Police have had a peer support team for at least a decade, helping officers through their problems. Sometimes all it takes is a voice who knows what it’s like.

“You lean on each other, that’s what it’s all about,” says Adler. “We’re all in this together.”

Garrett says PTSD is a growing issue among first responders, and nationwide, suicides outnumber line-of-duty firefighter deaths.

They serve and protect, and help at our worst. Their message to firefighters is that it’s okay for a hero to need help, too.

“It just adds up and adds up,” Kane says, “it gets tough on a career.”

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(This story was originally published December 7, 2017)

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