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First responders find comfort from job pressures in local stress management team

ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (WPTA21) – The emotional strain of being an emergency responder can be powerful and unsettling.

Local police officers, firefighters and paramedics have a resource to help overcome their personal battles with a form of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The case of admitted murderer Marcus Dansby illustrates the pressures first responders can face.

23-year old Marcus Dansby was sentenced Thursday to 300 years for a violent crime that is hard to imagine.

Dansby killed three people and his ex-girlfriend’s unborn child, attacking some of the victims with a knife that left blood everywhere, a scene described by one officer as “a house of horrors”.

Sgt. Michael Bell, who worked the case, testified at the hearing he still doesn’t like driving down that street, saying it stirs up feelings that are overwhelming.

“The brain never forgets what your eyes see, or your ears hear,” said Ken Hendricks.

He and his wife, 30 years ago, established the Northeast Indiana Critical Incident Stress Management Team.

It involves a group of about 25 trained cops, firefighters, and paramedics who are able to meet with first responders who’ve been hit with something that, for a time, leaves them frustrated, confused, or struggling to cope.

“We explain to them that you’re acting perfectly normal in an abnormal situation, when you see this kind of stuff, that’s an abnormal situation,” Hendricks said.

In some cases, the first responders seeking help get directed to a professional counselor.

Psychologist Dr. Stephen Ross of Fort Wayne says the old attitude among police and firefighters, that seeking mental health care is a sign of weakness, is steadily being wiped away.

He says there is a growing acceptance that the demands on public safety personnel are sometimes more than you can process all by yourself.


Jeff Neumeyer

Jeff Neumeyer is a reporter for WPTA.

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