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'You never forget that stuff': Firefighters seek to end stigma of post-traumatic stress

Posted at 6:20 PM, Jun 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-03 19:20:56-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — While firefighters see a lot, they haven’t always talked about it, and now that’s beginning to change.

Statistics show one in five firefighters suffer from post-traumatic stress more than once in their lives and it makes sense why, as they’re often the first to respond to shootings and massive fires like Nox-Crete just this week.

President of the Omaha Professional Firefighters Association, Trevor Towey, says firefighters see things that normal people just shouldn’t see.

“We drive around town and we can say we saw something really bad happen at this location, and this location and this location. And you never forget that stuff,” said Towey.

And with those images burned into their brains, it’s not surprising it can hurt their mental health but for a while they didn’t want to talk about it.

“20 years ago it wasn’t something that was on the forefront of the fire service it was something that nobody talked about and we’re trying to change that,” said Towey.

One way they’re trying to change that is by celebrating the life of one of their own, Jeremy Knott, who died in 2019 and suffered from what they call post-traumatic stress injury, or PTSI.

They’re hoping the event Sunday, which includes a fun run and pancake feed, will raise awareness and get the firefighters to speak up, whether it be among each other or trained professionals.

“We want to be able to identify and have people self identify that they need to reach out to somebody that’s better suited with dealing with post-traumatic stress.”

Towey also told 3 News Now that he knows firefighters who have quit the profession due to post-traumatic stress. He paints this as a good thing, as they prioritized their mental health and their families.

The event on Sunday, called Knott Forgotten Memorial Run, begins with a fun run at 9 a.m. and a pancake feed will go on from that time until noon. The event is at the Omaha Firefighters Union Hall at 60th and Grover St.

For more information you can go to the Knott Forgotten Memorial Run site here.

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