The Ardmore Police Department is hosting a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder training for first responders unlike any held in the area before.
Over 100 first responders from across Southern Oklahoma and Northern Texas have already elected to attend the training, titled “Tactical PTSD: The Silent Sniper,” said APD Det. Eric Grisham. The training is offered on both Sep. 4 and 5 and runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Southern Tech Center, Seminar A.
Grisham, who helped organize the class in partnership with Lighthouse Behavioral Wellness Centers and N&F Training Solutions, said he went through the training a couple of months ago and it impacted him so much that he wanted to share it with his fellow first responders in the area.
“I’ve been here since 2011 and I haven’t been involved in anything like this,” Grisham said. “It gave me a better understanding, it opened my eyes to a lot of things and I wanted to bring it here locally so that we could get our local public safety professionals involved and try to reach as many people in this area as we possibly could.”
PTSD is something officers across the nation deal with on a daily basis, Grisham said. However, because of stigma surrounding officer mental health, it hasn’t always been throughly discussed or addressed.
“If something’s bothering me mentally or if I’m having some problems and I tell another police officer about it or my partner or my boss or something like that, for the longest time you’ve kind of been viewed as weak,” Grisham said.
In a previous interview, APD Deputy Chief of Police Kevin Norris said the total number of confirmed suicide cases for law enforcement by June, 2019 was higher than the amount of line of duty deaths, with 97 suicides and 55 line of duty deaths.
There have been similar trends in previous years as well, with 167 suicides in 2018 and 169 in 2017.
The training primarily focuses on teaching first responders not only how to cope with trauma, but how to seek help, Grisham said. “What this training does, it just sheds some light on ‘Hey it’s okay to ask for help’.”  
The instructors of the class have had to deal with their own, unique traumatic experiences, Grisham said. One of the instructors killed two suspects in a Walmart parking lot shootout and the other had to respond to a call regarding a 3-year-old child who had drowned. “Ever since then it would just kind of eat at him.”
It could be multiple stressful situations over the course of a first responder’s career or just one traumatic incident — but nearly every first responder will come across a situation that impacts them in this way, Grisham said.
“You learn how to just deal with it or find another outlet to let go of it, but we want the general public to be aware that this affects us, too,” Grisham said.
Ardmore Fire Department Fire Marshall Tim Lee said the department will be sending a few of its firefighters to the training, as well.
When it comes to dealing with traumatic incidents, Lee said the only real difference between law enforcement and firefighters is the uniforms.
“We go through a lot of the same things. Car wrecks, suicides — we respond to fatality fires — all that stuff has an effect on us for sure,” Lee said. “All of those things just take a toll.”
While the police department has had previous PTSD training classes in the past, Grisham said this training is unlike any they’ve had before and is a part of a more recent movement to bring more awareness to officer mental health.
“It needs to be more acceptable to us officers who are going through a PTSD situation — or who are not going through PTSD — to kind of step back and try to put yourself in your partner’s shoes that he or she might be going through and just reach out and help as much as you can,” Grisham said.
One of the resources officers are taught to turn to during the training is copline.org, a national 24 hour hotline that is confidential and manned by retired law enforcement officers, Grisham said.
“Sometimes you’re going to be in a situation where maybe you just need to call and talk to someone,” Grisham said. “If you feel like no one understands what you’re going through, then that’s what copline.org is for.”
To receive help first responders can call 1-800-267-5463 or visit www.copline.org. To register for the PTSD training course, contact Det. Eric Grisham at egrisham@ardmorecity.org.