HEALTHY MIND MATTERS

Weber Fire District Creates PTSD Support Program For Retirees

Dec 19, 2019, 7:29 PM | Updated: 7:41 pm

HUNTSVILLE, Utah – The Weber Fire District Board of Trustees announced the department has created an association to help fire district retirees deal with the impact of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Jim Truett said he recently learned about the impact PTSD can have on even retired firefighters from a friend.

“He was telling me about going through an intersection, and remembering when a young boy was killed there,” Truett said. “This stuff is real. He was dealing with it. This big, bad firefighter, tough firefighter was in tears and I got emotional, his wife was emotional.”

Truett, who is Huntsville’s mayor, also serves as the Weber Fire District Board of Trustees’ treasurer. He said he was surprised to hear there was no help for retirees like his friend.

“These guys are dealing with the emotion, and they never had a resource for getting help back when they were serving as firefighters,” Truett said.

Weber Fire District Chief Paul Sullivan said he remembers those times when tough calls and emotions just weren’t talked about.

“I remember when I was a young paramedic, many years ago, I had a 2-week-old cardiac arrest patient and at the time I had a 2-week-old child,” Sullivan said. “I remember going into the restroom. I had my cry, came back out, dried my tears and moved on and didn’t want anybody to know that occurred.”

Truett recently shared his concerns with fellow board members and got unanimous support to create an association for retirees of the fire district, which could then hold support groups. An employee assistance program has already been put in place to help find free counseling for those who need it.

“They put their lives on the line for us,” Truett said. “And not only their physical health but their mental health. And helping them deal with that, we owe it to them.”

The program will be modeled after one that is already in place for current employees of the fire district. Firefighters who serve as peer supports, reach out to employees who may be struggling, as well as families they’ve helped in calls who might also need support. Lindsay Worman is one of two peer supports at Weber Fire.

“I’ve been in the darkest of dark, and it’s nice to have somebody there, and know that there’s people there for you,” Workman said. “Some people you know, the can be happy like nothing’s wrong, and then the next day they could take their own lives.”

Truett is hopeful that other agencies will catch onto their idea. As far as he can tell, there is no other program for first-responder retirees in the state of Utah.

“We’re hoping that the word will get out there and that this will spread because there’s a lot of people that have come forward here lately, that are dealing with PTSD,” Truett said.

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Weber Fire District Creates PTSD Support Program For Retirees