Former Paramedic Creates Group For Those Dealing With Post Traumatic Stress
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – A man suffering in silence for years, all while saving the lives of others. Kent Meyer retired from the EMS field three years ago, but not before stress from the job landed him in the hospital. Now he’s hoping to help other first responders battle their demons.
“It’s not just a job, it’s who you are, it’s apart of you,” says Kent Meyer, who was a paramedic in Pennsylvania and Texas for a total of 14 years. “I felt alone, I felt all alone.”
The majority of the calls he responded to were in rural areas.
“So typically you see more trauma and you’re with the patient longer,” says Meyer.
That trauma stayed with him.
“I was having nightmares and so I wasn’t sleeping, and due to being deprived of sleep, I started having hallucinations,” he explains.
But it’s not the graphic calls that are affecting Meyer, it’s the ones that are personalized.
“One of the hardest things I had to do, was call a father in Iraq to tell him that his son died,” says Meyer.
Before knowing the father was overseas, Meyer says “the son, he was 25, he was just a patient, he was just a job.”
But talking to family members is when that patient and that job become more.
“So that’s been my poor coping skill,” says Meyer.
After coming to this realization, Meyer sought help.
“I was emitted for 9 days in the mental hospital where they diagnosed me with PTSD,” he explains.
Meyer says he was suffering in silence for a while before then.
“Number one, I was a rescuer,” he explains. “I should be able to handle it; I shouldn’t have to ask for help, and two, you are afraid of your peers thinking less of you.”
After going through 6 months of intensive therapy and moving back to Sioux Falls to be closer to his family, Meyer promised himself he would do something to help others going through the same thing. And he has, creating a group called ‘Project Hope’.
“We have helped thousands of people and saved hundreds of lives,” says Meyer.
The group of 15 volunteers act as a middle man between first responders and health specialists.
“We have the resources and tools to help them to go to the next level, to get the help that they need,” says Meyer.
‘Project Hope’ is online based for now, but Meyer is making his rounds in Sioux Falls, setting up shop where he can talk to EMS crews in person. He wants everyone in the field suffering to know they are not alone.
“It’s not weak to ask for help,” says Meyer. “You’ll find by coming forward and getting help and getting treatment, that you’ll give others courage to do the same.”
Meyer created a website and Facebook page for ‘Project Hope’ back in September of last year. The group now has over 8,600 members in over 20 different countries. All the volunteers for ‘Project Hope’ have been diagnosed with PTSD. But it is a closed group; members have to be first responders to join. Meyer’s goal is to turn ‘Project Hope’ into a nonprofit organization.