Area first responders, who face traumatic events every day, recently received a course in the signs and symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder from representatives of the Neshoba County General Hospital.

“I think it is a really good thing,” Philadelphia Fire Department Battalion Chief Scott Clark said of the program which was presented over two dates in June at the Depot as part of PTSD awareness month.

“We see traumatic events over and over again in our profession and some people deal with stress differently,” he said. “I think it is good to know that there is a program like this in our community and that they (first responders) have someone they can talk to.”

The program was moderated by Neshoba General Behavioral Health Director/Provider Heidi Starks, who said that PTSD treatment is just one of the many behavioral health issues the hospital’s behavioral health program offers treatment for.

Starks said the goal of the program was to make area first responders aware that their local hospital offers services for PTSD and to not be afraid to seek treatment if necessary.

“I think that now that she (Heidi) has made this presentation folks will be more apt to report if they have a problem,” Neshoba General Director of Emergency Management Services Johnny Williamson said.

Williamson, who has over 33 years experience in EMS said that this was the first time such a program has been presented this way. He noted that generally first responders are not the type of people to go to seek help if they do have a problem and he said he hoped this course would motivate them to seek help.

“There is a general resistance among first responders to seek help,” Starks said.

Starks said the class’ purpose was to outline the basics of PTSD.

“It was an overview, what is PTSD, signs and symptoms and statistics to show prevalence,” she said.

According to the statistics presented by Starks, about seven to eight percent of the population will have PTSD at some point in their lives. About 10 percent of women and four percent of men will develop PTSD within their lifetimes.

Starks said that while people think of PTSD affecting only the military or other dangerous jobs, it can affect anyone suffering from a traumatic experience.

“Not everyone with PTSD has been through a dangerous event, some can experience it with the loss of a loved one,” Starks said.

Starks also wanted area first responders to be aware that Neshoba General offers treatment for PTSD issues. She said that during the last year the hospital has expanded its behavioral health program and is seeing continued progress.

“A lot of people still don’t know we are here or what services we offer, part of the class was just making them aware,” she said.

Over the two sessions some 40-50 people participated.

“We had a pretty good turnout,” Starks said noting that she would have liked to have seen more volunteer firefighters attend the course as they do not have the same outlets as do professional firefighters to resolve PTSD type issues.

In all, Starks said the program was well received.

“The feedback we got was very positive,” she said. “People expressed that it was helpful.”

One of those people, Philadelphia Police Chief Grant Myers said the course is important to others in his field.

“I want to thank the hospital for offering that class,” he said. “That (PTSD) is something that all first responders have to be aware of. You do see a lot of things in this line of work that people could have problem with. We are certainly appreciative of the hospital for offering these types of services, in case one of our guys needed it in the future.”

Starks said she would like to eventually extend the class offerings, not only for first responders, but the rest of the community as well to make them aware of services available as part of the behavioral health program.