Peer-to-peer support group helps local first responders cope with PTSD

SELMA, Texas – First responders are called to emergencies, rescue people and show up to work day after day to do it all over again, which can sometimes lead to post-traumatic stress disorder. A former police officer in Selma is helping others learn how to manage their trauma.

Preston Kinikin remembers hearing the “COPS” theme song and running to the television to watch it with his father.

“Had to make a beeline to his room just so I could jump on the bed and watch ‘COPS’ because that was the thing to do. I was in love with this since I was a little kid,” Kinikin said.

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

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

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

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

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

“Police officers, firefighters, paramedics, military -- they go out 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 holding the bag. It’s like, ‘Well, where’s our hero? Where’s our Superman?’ Because we’re too busy being everyone else’s.”

Ian Brown, retired from the U.S. Army and former firefighter volunteer, says there’s nothing like sitting across from someone who gets what you’re talking about when you share the feelings that PTSD can cause.

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

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

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

Kinikin wants departments to actively push first responders to attend peer-to-peer counseling or hold debriefing meetings after intense scenes to ensure first responders are ready to return to the job. He said it has to be done appropriately so that first responders can have anonymity and not fear losing their jobs.

“We’re asking our first responders to go out there and handle people with mental health issues when they’re suffering from a form of mental health themselves, whenever they’re dealing with trauma, day in and day out and developing PTSD,” Kinikin said.

Warriors of Ramoth meet at River City Community Church -- “Cantina Building” 3809, 16765 Lookout Rd. Selma, Texas, 78154. They get together on the 2nd, 3rd & 4th Monday of every month at 6:30 p.m. Dinner is served at the meeting.

The group is also set to have another branch at the YMCA in Schertz starting on May 10. Kinikin said his goal is to have satellite campuses all over the city, where first responders can have close access to help.

About the Authors

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.

Recommended Videos