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Peer support group helps KCK firefighters manage job-related trauma

KCKFD fire engine.jpg
Posted at 9:50 PM, Oct 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-14 23:30:30-04

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — It's a sad and possibly shocking fact, but more police officers and firefighters die from suicide than in the line of duty, according to a study by the Ruderman Family Foundation.

The Kansas City, Kansas, Fire Department is doing something about it.

Last year, the department launched a peer support group to help crews manage trauma.

"We see things that the average person will never seen in their lifetime," Mallory Super, a training instructor with KCKFD, said. "Sometimes, it gets to be too much. We need to help people figure things out when it does become too much. It's not uncommon to run (a shooting, car accident, and stabbing) in a shift. That compounded trauma just keeps building and building."

Super started the confidential program, which allows firefighters and their families to reach out to coworkers for help. The program is available 24/7.

"I had to go through my own thing before I realized how important it is," she said. "I realized I may not be the only one experiencing this, so why not reach out and build on this."

Since 2018, the program has helped almost 200 individuals in the department and the community.

"We are not the people that are going to discuss this with someone we don't know, someone who hasn't been through what we have been through, someone who hasn't walked through the shoes we have," KCKFD Assistant Fire Chief and Chief of the KCKFD Training Division James Zeeb said. "But when we find that person or that group that has been there or done that, they absolutely understand what you're going through, it's easier for us to open up to them."

KCKFD personnel in need of help are encouraged to call the 24/7 peer support hotline at 913-573-5910.