You don’t have to know what it’s like to be on a battlefield or in a war zone in order to experience post-traumatic stress or develop post-traumatic stress disorder, said Brenda McBride, who leads the Warrior Peer Group at Lone Star Church.
Every day, first responders are called to the scenes of car accidents, fires, crimes and more. While they are often expected to remain mentally tough and have to be careful about when and how they express their emotions, McBride, a licensed clinical social worker, said it’s only natural for them to be affected by the things they encounter on their jobs.
“These first responders deal with the crisis at hand but they also absorb the emotion of the traumas that they are dealing with,” McBride said. “It affects them not just emotionally, but it affects them at a physiological level.
“Our first responders are really good at taking care of everyone else but what we find is they really struggle with receiving care,” she added.
In an effort to help both first responders and veterans deal with post-traumatic stress and PTSD, the Lone Star Church offers a free Warrior Peer Group.
Lone Star Church Pastor Douglas Haning said psychologist and veteran Dr. Jim Patrick, who has since moved out of the state, originally started the group at the church. Haning said he thinks the Warrior Peer Group is a valuable resource for veterans and first responders who may not realize that others are going through similar experiences.
“The biggest thing they will get out of this is they will come to the realization that they are not alone,” Haning said. “Satan wants you to think you are the only one with these thoughts. … You will realize almost instantly that you are not alone.”
At the group meetings, Haning and McBride said veterans and first responders from many different walks of life gather to participate. First responders include firefighters and police officers, emergency room nurses and emergency medical technicians.
“One of the things I found is ... we had a paramedic tell the group they were ashamed to even think they had PTSD because that is something only veterans are allowed to have,” Haning said. “When they shared their story, the group said ‘no, it’s not a badge of honor.’
“It’s kind of like they have a mutual respect within that group,” Haning said.
McBride said during group meetings, they want participants to feel as though they are in a safe space. Participants are allowed to open up about some of their experiences, but McBride, who is also a licensed brain gym instructor, also teaches them about how the brain works and things they can do to feel more at ease.
“We try to not just talk but show them body interventions they can do,” she said. “We help them to learn how to self regulate their physiology. Part of what we teach them is just certain movements they can do to help them come to the more rational parts of their brain.”
In July, the church plans to also start a group to help the family members of first responders. On Tuesday evenings, McBride also leads a support group for women with PTSD who have experienced sexual trauma.
Haning and McBride said they believe the PTSD groups have been very successful and hope they continue to have a positive impact on participants’ lives.
“We want to help restore joy now,” McBride said. “Life is not meant to just be survived. It’s meant to be lived and enjoyed.”
IF YOU GO: The Warrior Peer Group for veterans and first responders meets at 11 a.m. Thursdays at the Lone Star Church, 604 W. 4th St. A PTSD support group for women who have experienced sexual trauma takes place at the church from 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays. Child care is available during the support group for women.