Peer support group helps local first responders cope with PTSD

SELMA, TX – First responders are called to the emergency room, rescue people and show up to work day after day to start all over again, which can sometimes lead to post-traumatic stress disorder. A former police officer from Selma helps others learn to deal with their trauma.

Preston Kinikin recalls hearing the theme song “COPS” and running to the TV to watch it with his dad.

“I had to go straight to his room so I could jump on the bed and watch ‘COPS’ because that was the thing to do. I was in love with it since I was little,” Kinikin said.

As an adult, it was an honor to wear the uniform and be that thin blue line between the bad guys and the victims, he says.

“A lot of times when people thought they could victimize someone and get away with it, I always liked being the thin blue line that said, ‘No, you’re not,'” Kinikin said.

But the worst of humanity he saw drained his psyche and his relationship with his loved ones.

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“You come home and you’re not in a good mood. You’re upset. You have to deal with horrible stuff,” Kinikin said. “You have to see horrible things that people shouldn’t see because people shouldn’t do that to themselves, and it really starts to affect you.”

Last year, Kinikin started the nonprofit Warriors of Ramoth, a peer support group that helps first responders and veterans learn how to manage their PTSD.

“The police, the firefighters, the paramedics, the military – they’re going there with a good heart, and they don’t intend to be exposed or have to do some of the things that we have to do. “Kinikin said. “And then we’re kind of left with the bag. It’s like, ‘Well, where’s our hero? Where is our Superman?’ Because we’re too busy belonging to everyone.

Ian Brown, retired US Army and former volunteer firefighter, says there’s nothing like sitting across from someone who understands what you’re talking about when you share feelings about PTSD may cause.

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“I hope they feel that they are encouraged, that there is something beyond what they feel. There’s something beyond that gloomy feeling they get when dealing with post-traumatic stress,” Brown said.

Brown wants first responders to grow up and learn different tools to deal with feelings of stress that their job or PTSD can cause.

“Come on. There’s nothing wrong with telling people you need help,” Brown said.

Kinikin wants departments to actively push first responders to attend peer counseling or hold debriefing meetings after intense scenes to ensure first responders are ready to get back to work. He said it needed to be done in a proper way so that first responders can remain anonymous and not fear losing their jobs.

“We’re asking our first responders to go out there and deal with people with mental health issues when they’re suffering from some form of mental illness themselves, whenever they’re facing a trauma day after day and develop PTSD,” Kinkin says.

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The Ramoth Warriors meet at the River City Community Church — “Cantina Building” 3809, 16765 Lookout Rd. Selma, TX, 78154. They meet the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Mondays of each month at 6:30 p.m. Dinner is served during the meeting.

The group is also expected to have another branch at the Schertz YMCA from May 10. Kinikin said his goal is to have satellite campuses throughout the city where first responders can have close access to help.

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Virginia S. Braud