INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — Independence Fire Chief Douglas Short says Fire Equipment Operator/Paramedic Chad Sappenfield wasn't afraid to talk about his post-traumatic stress disorder.
After Sappenfield passed away last week, the department and his family wanted to make sure the community-at-large knows about his illness and the help he sought so it may help prevent another tragedy.
Before he joined the Independence Fire Department in 2008, Sappenfield had already seen what some can only imagine, serving in the U.S. Army for three years with a deployment to Iraq.
Chief Short says opening up about one's feelings wasn't a thing anyone did at work a decade ago.
"It was sometimes seen as weakness if you had those kinds of symptoms and wanted to talk to anyone about it," Short said.
Not for Sappenfield. When he sought treatment for his PTSD at the Valor Recovery Program in North Kansas City, he created a version of it for his colleagues at IFD that's now evolved to a peer support team.
"It makes people more comfortable to understand when they talk to somebody that they understand what they've gone through," Short said.
PTSD is a prevalent diagnosis treated at Comprehensive Mental Health Services.
"We know that trauma embeds itself physically in the body and can become very difficult for them to deal with and manage on day-to-day life," said Julie Pratt, CMHS president and CEO. "It affects their sleep and affects their ability to just take care of what we would consider daily activities — our appetites, getting up and taking a shower, and stepping out the door becomes a very difficult task. Sometimes to a point where the unthinkable occurs."
According to the CDC, law enforcement officers and firefighters are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty.
Sappenfield lost his battle to PTSD last Monday.
"I don't think Chad would want everybody to think that just because he probably didn't beat it, that it's not necessary to get the help. It is important to get the help," Short said.
Mental health resources:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center (Douglas County): 785-843-9192
- Central Kansas Mental Health Center (Saline, Dickinson, Ellsworth, Lincoln, Ottawa): 785-823-6322 or 800-794-8281
- Crosswinds (Chase, Coffey, Greenwood, Lyon, Morris, Osage, Wabaunsee Counties): 620-343-2211 local, 800-279-3645 Toll Free (8 a.m. - 5 p.m.); 620-343-2626 Local, 866-330-3310 Toll Free (after hours)
- Elizabeth Layton Center (Franklin and Miami Counties): 800-241-1266
- Family Service and Guidance Center of Topeka (Shawnee County children’s services): 785-232-5005
- High Plains Mental Health Center (Cheyenne, Decatur, Ellis, Gove, Graham, Logan, Ness, Norton, Osborne, Phillips, Rawlins, Rooks, Rush, Russell, Sheridan, Sherman, Smith, Thomas, Trego, Wallace Counties): 785-628-2871 or 800-432-0333
- Horizons Mental Health Center (Barber, Harper, Kingman, Pratt, Reno Counties): 620-694-1099
- Iroquois Center for Human Development (Clark, Comanche, Edwards, Kiowa Counties): 620-723-2656 or 888-877-0375
- Johnson County Mental Health Center (Johnson County): 913-268-0156
- Kanza Mental Health and Guidance Center (Brown, Doniphan, Jackson, Nemaha Counties): 785-742-3666 (after-hours emergency line)
- Labette Center for Mental Health Services (Labette County): 620-421-3770 or 800-303-3770 (after-hours emergency line)
- Pawnee Mental Health Services (Clay, Cloud, Geary, Jewell, Marshall, Mitchell, Pottawatomie, Republic, Riley, Washington Counties): 800-609-2002
- Prairie View Inc. (McPherson, Marion, Harvey Counties): 800-992-6292
- South Central Mental Health Counseling Center (Butler County): 866-660-3300
- Southeast Kansas Mental Health Center (Anderson, Linn, Allen, Bourbon, Woodson, Neosho Counties): 866-973-2241
- Spring River Mental Health & Wellness Center (Cherokee County): 866-634-2301
- Sumner Mental Health Center (Sumner County): 800-369-8222
- The Center for Counseling and Consultation (Barton, Stafford, Rice, Pawnee Counties): 800-875-2544
- The Guidance Center (Atchison, Jefferson, Leavenworth Counties): 888-260-9634
- Valeo Behavioral Health (Shawnee): 785-234-3300
- Wyandot Center for Community Behavioral Healthcare (Wyandotte County): 913-788-4200
The Crisis Text Line, Text MOSAFE to 741741
The Veteran's Crisis Line, text 838255