By Jim Jeffery
Most of us are aware of post-traumatic stress in military combat veterans. It can be very severe with just a single deployment to a war zone.
Much less is written about post-traumatic stress in first responders.
Dr. Robin Klein, a psychologist and retired police lieutenant, says first responders can’t go through a 20-30 year career without experiencing some degree of post-traumatic stress..
First responders see and experience things that no one should, but we frequently suppress emotional reactions. As heroic macho individuals we rarely admit to the pain we are experiencing.
Symptoms include sleep disturbances and/or nightmares, depression, irritability, and reduced libido.
Following a 32 year career in the California Fire Service, I have had several bouts with post-traumatic stress, but I recently found a book of daily devotions that helps me in the healing process.
Strength for Service to God and Community is a book of daily devotions for police officers, firefighters, healthcare workers and other first responders.
The book is patterned after Strength for Service to God and Country, a book of daily devotions written in 1942 for US troops in World War II and the Korean War, and updated a decade ago.
I read the devotions from Strength for Service to God and Country prior to the release of the Strength for Service to God and Community. This spiritual material helped me deal with post-traumatic stress.
Responses to the book
The Rev. Dr. Daniel Tackett, director of the International Police and Fire Chaplains Association, said the book is an important tool for his chaplains. “Sometimes these highly trained people can draw a blank during high stress/trauma situations. . . The book is a tool to help the mind, soul, and spirit find peace.”
Retired police officer Daniel Ramsey gives his views on the book.
“I was a Houston Police officer for 30 years. Reading this amazing book of devotions was as if the writer was in my shirt pocket. The good and bad we face on a daily basis take a toll on first responders. Facing the stress, the danger, the difficult situations, one becomes numb to so much tragedy. However, this does not mean that first responders do not need help in dealing with such stress. This Strength for Service To God and Community devotion is exactly the blessing that is needed for first responders and their families. I wish I had this book during my years with Houston Police Department.”
Given to first responders
I also believe spiritual strength can help first responders deal with their emotions following stressful situations, thus helping to prevent post-traumatic stress at a later date.
Strength for Service to God and Community is normally distributed through chaplains. It has been distributed to first responders following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., the bombing at the Boston Marathon, the fertilizer explosion in West, Texas; the mudslides in Washington state, and other major incidents.
For more information on the book, visit the website (www.strengthforservice.org). Strength for Service to God and Community can also be purchased by individuals or organizations. Purchase information is available on the website.
Strength for Service is a 501c(3) non-denominational organization and is supported by donations. If you believe as I do that it is a worthwhile cause, you can also provide financial support to assist our fellow first responders via the website.
Jim Jeffery is a Long Beach, Calif., resident, a 32-year veteran of the California Fire Department, and member of the Strength for Service Board of Directors.