We’ve known for a long time that there is a need for a peer support group for cops. What happens on the streets deeply affects us, even though we tend to bury it down. That can work for a while, but the stresses eventually surface in ways like trouble at home, feeling isolated, self-medicating through alcohol, etc. In a million ways, the cracks can begin to show; after all, those who are expected to do and face everything with a stoic countenance aren’t the super humans society expects them to be.
John Krahn has been involved with WILEORC since the very early days. In 2009, while serving with the Elm Grove Police Department, John came across a van stuck on railroad tracks. While John worked furiously to extricate a child from the minivan, a train struck the vehicle. John suffered numerous severe injuries. He was medically retired in 2011.
John continues to struggle with the physical, emotional, and psychological wounds he received that day. Through his dedication to continue to serve the Thin Blue Line, WILEORC has been able to launch a PTSD Peer Support Group.
John addresses some common questions he’s asked about the new group:
Why did you form this group?
After many appointments with various therapists, I quickly became frustrated that I was receiving advice from therapists, however well intended, were telling me how I should feel and clearly, and had no idea what it was to go through PTSD situations as a cop, as well as what it means to be a cop and what we experience.
How often does the group meet?
At this time, we are planning to meet twice a month. However, if situations arise and members would ask to meet to talk at anytime, we would definitely make arrangements to accommodate this. There are times where a person may have something trigger PTSD issues.
What benefits are members experiencing?
All the members in the group have some form of PTSD of varying degrees and causes. However, the majority of the symptoms are the same. Officers in these situations typically don’t feel comfortable talking to other cops because they do not want to be perceived as weak or defective. These officers do not want to discuss their PTSD issues with family or significant others because the officer does not want to add to the stress the family member or significant other is experiencing. The officer also believes that others will not understand what the officer is experiencing, which more often than not is correct. These meetings can not only hopefully help the officer cope with their own PTSD issues, but take solace in knowing that by attending, they are helping other officers cope as well.
Confidentiality is often a major concern, can an officer attend with confidence?
Each gathering will begin and end with the reminder that whatever is said at these gatherings does not leave there. The stories, concerns, fears, feelings etc will not be shared with anyone, including close friends or family members. This confidentiality is what will allow this group to be the most effective, knowing word will not get back to anyone else, departments or other officers.
Often officers are hesitant to speak about their symptoms of PTSD, how does being around others in help? Does talking really help?
I would go as far to say that most officers are hesitant to speak about their symptoms of PTSD, for several reasons. PTSD is primarily associated with military officers and what they have to physically and mentally process. Officers who have not been to a therapist who has diagnosed them as having PTSD may not understand why they are feeling and experiencing what they do, i.e. drastic mood swings, sleep disorders, relationship issues, and sometimes just breaking down in tears without knowing why. Officers are often not aware there are many others who have the same problems; because it is not spoken of, they are not aware of it and feel alone. Being around officers who are also struggling with PTSD shows them they are not alone. That the symptoms are not uncommon in the law enforcement field. I personally am much more comfortable talking with officers whom I know are experiencing the same general symptoms and can understand how it can affect an officer who has to leave his career due to PTSD as well as the officers who are still on the job having to deal with PTSD alone, so that other officers do not see them as defective or weak. I and others have found that by talking to other officers in similar situations, can be very therapeutic and can have confidence that what they say will be above all, remain confidential.
What does it cost to join this group?
There is no cost to join this group. You can come as often as you want and interact as much as you want. Hopefully officers joining the group will be able to reach out to other officers who are in need of help.
Most people think of PTSD as relating to a specific event, but that’s not always the case, is it?
PTSD can be related to a single traumatic event, physical or otherwise, or it can be the result of cumulative dealing with situations that take their toll over time, which can be just as devastating.
Does an officer have to have a diagnosis of PTSD to join this group?
A person does not need to have a diagnosis of PTSD to join the group. If the officer is experiencing negative feelings, stress and issues as a result of their career as a cop, they are more than welcome to join our group. Often officers do not seek professional help from a therapist because they are concerned about confidentiality issues and do not feel comfortable talking to someone who has never been in the situations the officers have.
Who can I reach out to to check out a meeting?
If you are interested in joining our group or simply see what it is about, contact John Krahn at firstname.lastname@example.org or WILEORC Director of Pastoral Services Casey Sugden at email@example.com.