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Sarpy County Deputies to meet after psychological impact of Gretna crash

Sarpy County Deputies to meet after psychological impact of Gretna crash
Posted at 6:23 PM, Jun 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-19 19:37:00-04

SARPY COUNTY, Neb. (KMTV) — Monday's crash is heightening awareness about the challenges first responders face when working such a tragic scene. June is national PTSD awareness month.

Sarpy County Sheriff's Office lead chaplain said first responders often bury their emotions after dealing with tragedies. Officials with the sheriff's office say the crash that killed four Gretna teens and injured one was one of the worst accidents they've responded to in years.

"This morning, my wife left for work and I was making my breakfast, and I was a little overcome," lead chaplain Jeff Kaiser said. "I had some tears because of my breaking heart."

Kaiser was at the scene of the crash comforting families and first responders.

"You think about it, and those are destinies that are never going to happen," Kaiser said. "There's a heartbreaking statistic that a law enforcement will take their own life every 17 hours."

Kaiser says that statistic can be attributed to post-traumatic stress disorder. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services will soon meet with officials to talk about what they've encountered in their careers.

A psychiatrist at Nebraska Medical Center says it's critical for law enforcement officers to talk about what they experience day-to-day.

"A lot of the personnel working in these types of situations hesitate to seek help, but it's important to keep up with the high functioning because it's critical for the community," Dr. Soonjo Hwang said.

Dr. Hwang says suppressing symptoms can also be devastating to their personal lives. Health and Human Services will meet with deputies later this week and Chaplain Kaiser will be there, along with a mental health professional.

"We'll need to provide a safe place and give them time to share stuff they may be processing whether on the job, at home or wherever."

Deputies and other officials involved in the Gretna crash have been notified about the debrief. A time and location have not yet been chosen.