Get involved with KEMSA's Peer Support Society. If you are a member of KEMSA, there is no additional fee to join the society.
This society represents anyone with an interest in peer support and/or helping our own. The Peer Support Society was created in 2018. The society was created to: provide support to first responders throughout Kansas mentally, emotionally and physically; provide support to Peer support teams throughout Kansas; provide mental health education and resources to Kansas providers; represent the mental health concerns and interests of providers at the local, regional, and state level; and to support the mission of the Kansas EMS Association. Right now, we are working diligently to get PTSD covered by Worker's Compensation without a physical injury.
President - Chrissy Bartel, EMS Director, Norwich EMS - (316) 772-0494
Visit the resources listed below.
Contact Chrissy Bartel if there are other resources you want us to add to the list.
From KEMSA Peer Support Society Chrissy Bartel:
Every day Kansas’s first responders answer the call to help their communities. Due to the nature of their job, responders are exposed to many hazards. Not only can scenes be physically dangerous but the aftermath of traumatic calls can be damaging as well.
Our firefighters, law enforcement officers, and EMS providers face challenging situations.
The repeated exposure to traumatic situations and stress can impact their mental health. They see the worst of the worst. After time, this accumulation of stressful events can be a struggle for first responders. A responder may have to respond to a seriously critical patient, the fatality of a child, or even be physically attacked. If left untreated, these mental injuries can further develop into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.
First responders are committing suicide at an alarming rate. The rate of PTSD in first responders is as high as thirty percent. PTSD and depression rates among responders are almost five times higher than civilians. A study by the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians found that 86% of emergency service workers experienced critical stress and 37% have had suicidal thoughts.
The Ruderman White Paper on Mental Health and Suicide of First Responders reported there are more first responder deaths by suicide than in the line of duty each year. Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation said, “First responders are heroes who run towards danger every day to save the lives of others. They are also human beings, and their work exerts a toll on their mental health. We should support them in every way possible – to make sure that they feel welcome and able to access life-saving mental health care. This white paper should serve as a critical call to action to all who care about our heroes in red and blue.”
Kansas state law does not recognize PTSD as an eligible workman’s compensation claim. There are no job related mental health benefits; it is only covered if an employee received a physical injury. Due to the costly expense being out of pocket, many responders do not seek help. This leads to untreated mental injuries and stress that develops into PTSD, depression, substance abuse, and suicide. It can be debilitating. These responders that have dedicated their lives to saving others will no longer be able to perform in their professional capacity.
As a paramedic, I have experienced the toll of critical events. I have lost friends and peers to suicide. Sadly, there are many more that have had suicidal thoughts. As the President of the KEMSA Peer Support Society, I receive phone calls and messages weekly from departments and responders that are in desperate need of help. They’re trying to find resources available. Yet because the injuries are invisible to the eye, help is difficult to find. The resources are scarce. Responders are left to suffer in silence.
The correlation of mental injuries and first responders is clear. If we as a state continue to expect our first responders to run into situations that others are running away from, we must provide the help they need. It is time to help the helpers and show support to Kansas first responders.
To get a copy of the poster below for your station, contact Chrissy Bartel.