May is mental health awareness month, and Odessa Fire Rescue held an event focusing specifically on the issue of PTSD.
“We are trying to capture that and really bring some awareness to that,” says Chief John Alvarez of OFR. “Because PTSD is prevalent among first responders, and our military of course. But we are starting to see it more and more in the fire service.”
OFR Chaplain Gary Kennedy says for many firefighters, the thoughts from PTSD don’t come till much later.
“They will tell you that is my job. That is what I am supposed to do. But it doesn’t hit them until a couple of weeks, a couple of months, maybe even a year later. They get to an anniversary, and think think ‘oh I remember that, I remember that house fire. I had to go in and bring that baby out,'” he said.
For Odessa Fire Rescue, the importance of mental health is personal. Around four years ago they lost a captain to suicide, an event that deeply hit Chief Alvarez.
Now OFR has many avenues for their men and women to deal with issues like PTSD. But Chaplain Kennedy says the best way is to keep your ears open, and just listen to them.
“Everybody’s PTSD is different. You can’t expect that one person was going to be the same as the next. So you want to be able to help them out, in what ever capacity you can. But the biggest thing to do is just listen, and they want to be heard,” he said.