An alternative way to help veterans of war and first responders suffering from post traumatic stress disorder is growing in Nebraska.
Former Omaha Police Gang Unit Detective Ryan Sedlacek retired in 2011 largely because of PTSD.
He’s made a complete 180 throughout the last six years and now helps first responders suffering from mental illness through peer to peer group therapy.
"Being a soldier, being a police officer, it really put me in a really good position to be able to share those life experiences and do so in a manner that can really help others," Sedlacek said.
The journey that led Sedlacek to peer to peer support volunteering was long and rough.
"We are the people that you call to solve problems,” Sedlacek said. “The problem is, the people that solve problems don't like to talk about their own problems. We don't communicate well. We don't share when we have problems and struggles."
Omaha police established a peer to peer support system about four years ago, after Sedlacek retired.
"We need to have a dedication and a commitment and police administrators to make sure they are putting the healthiest police officers they can out there on the street,” he said. “A big part of that is making sure those officers mental health needs are cared for."
Sedlacek says the system is a success at OPD.
"I want to give credit to Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer because he has been instrumental in getting a lot of positive changes made at the Omaha Police Department to promote taking better care of their officers, which then in turn translates into better service by those police officers to the public," Sedlacek said.
OPD isn't the sole place peer to peer groups are expanding.
They opened at the Nebraska Department of Health in 2009 and are expanding across Omaha area veterans groups.
Army Reserve Staff Sergeant Clinton John went through peer to peer therapy and now teaches it.
“The commonality, you're getting that bond with those people realizing that there's a group of you who are still dealing with that same process,” John said. “It's kind of like going back to the military. You've got your group or your squad. Those are your buddies. Those are the guys who have your back."
There are a variety of veterans support groups across the Omaha area.
You can call Kay or Joe at 402-734-1774 for a complete listing.
Additional resources at 402-734-1774, 402-344-0266, 402-630-2973, 402-594-5085 or 402-919-9979.