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“We have to help them continue on:” Local program helps first responders cope with PTSD

WISCONSIN (CBS 58) – A Wisconsin agency says emergency responders are committing suicide every 40 hours. Now, there’s a push in Madison to help save the people who live to save us.

A new law would expand the state’s workers’ compensation law allowing responders to take time away for PTSD, even if they weren’t physically injured during the traumatic experience.

CBS 58 Morning Anchor Whitney Martin explains the struggle that so many face.

Medals and awards line John Krahn’s walls. From the outside, he’s a hero. Inside, he’s fighting a battle only a few understand.

“I don’t dream normal dreams anymore. I haven’t since the accident,” said Krahn.

Those nightmares take the former Elm Grove Police Officer to the scene of a 2009 train accident where he was thrown into the air after attempting to save a mother and her son from a van stuck on the tracks.

While both made it out alive, Krahn still lives with the physical and emotional pain from that day, the day he almost died.

“I feel guilty that my wife has to deal with this,” Krahn says.

Krahn is referring to his post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD that can affect first responders causing flashbacks, anxiety, and insomnia, making some days feel like survival mode.

“What about the train accident gives you PTSD?” CBS 58’s Whitney Martin asks.

“I never used to have a fear of dying and now I am terrified by the thought of it,” Krahn says.

The internal pain, so deep emergency responders are ten times more likely to commit suicide, according to the journal of Emergency Medical Services. Twenty percent of firefighters are paramedics also have PTSD.

“This is a person who wanted to die and is going to make you do it for him.”

“At the lowest point, I was sitting in my backyard with a pistol in my mouth.”

John Fredericks is the face behind those troubling statistics. Eight years after pulling the trigger he vividly remembers the moment he killed a man who lunged at officers with a knife. While he was justified in the shooting, he still struggles with the moment the bullet left the gun.

“This was a guy who was having a mental breakdown. What if I gave it a second more? Would he really have made that jump or would he have dropped the knife? I’ll never know and that’s something I wrestle with every day,” says Fredericks.

“Was it because of things I had seen in the past? Was it because I was angry, I was hurt?”

Michael Doud is also fighting those demons.

“I shot another human being. You don’t train for that,” said Doud.

Among many tragic scenes, Doud also fired his weapon and was also one of the first through the door during the deadly 2012 Azana Salon & Spa shooting in Brookfield.

He’s now turning his pain into a mission to help his peers by giving officers an outlet as they continue life on the other side of the yellow tape.

“We have to help them continue on,” Doud says.

He is doing just that.

Doud is the Executive Director of the group. Not only is he fighting for support in Madison, he hosts special outings where responders can connect and relate.

For more information about the Wisconsin Injured Law Enforcement Officers Resource Council, please visit http://www.wileorc.org/.

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