Retired Carmel firefighter shares battle with PTSD, hopes to inspire others to get help

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– “On the way up to the run we usually say, ‘what do we have,’ and they said, ‘it’s a baby not breathing,’” now-retired firefighter Ken Brant remembered.

This moment from years ago is still front and center on Brant’s mind. He remembers doing chest compressions on the 4-to-5-month-old baby, and finally getting a heart beat back by the time they arrived to the hospital. However, he also remembers the bad news.

“I just remember the doctor telling the young mother she was brain dead from lack of oxygen,” Brant said, visibly upset from the story.

This moment, among many others, began to weigh on Brant.

“It got to a point where I was having a hard time seeing people suffer anymore,” Brant said. “It just wore me down mentally. I could do the job, but it was afterwards I was having issues with it.”

According to a recent study from the Ruderman Family Foundation, firefighters are more likely to die by suicide than any other profession in the line of duty. Those statistics are what motivates Brant to be open about his struggles, hoping to help others battling the same thing.

“Over the course of a career, seeing things stars wearing on your brain and you don’t know it,” Brant said. “I was lucky enough that I noticed something wrong after the run that triggered all this.”

“We’re used to helping with problems,” said Tim Griffin with the Carmel Fire Department. “We’re not good about asking for help.”

Griffin says their members are taking advantage of a peer support team in Hamilton county. They help guide those who might be struggling with PTSD in the right direction. Griffin believes it’s important for younger members of the department to hear what Brant has to say.

“When they see a guy with 20 plus years say ‘hey, this starts to weigh on you,’ they can learn from that and say, ‘hey, that’s ok,’” Griffin said.

Now on the way out, Brant hopes his story will help break the stigma associated with mental health for those on the way in.

“Guys just didn’t want to talk because they’re embarrassed they would look weak,” Brant said of years past. “You’re not weak. You’re going to seek help so you can stay strong and keep doing this job for a long time.”

Brant says besides talking about it with others, he also got help with a therapy called EMDR.

Carmel  is also having a training in a few months called “Helping Those Who Help Others” for both firefighters and their spouses.

Anyone experiencing suicidal urges or thoughts is encouraged to contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

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