Forward by Ron Meuser, Jr.
Chris Steward, retired Minneapolis Police Sergeant and Founder of Heroes Helping Heroes, was granted a medical disability retirement in 2021 after 14+ years with the City of Minneapolis. Heroes Helping Heroes provides non-medical support to first responders who suffer with mental illness, specifically post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Heroes Helping Heroes is the first and only program in the State of Minnesota that addresses mental health issues by offering programs that help these individuals cope with their illness. Chris is a client and a friend to us at Meuser, Yackley and Rowland, and wrote the story below. Please join us in supporting this amazing organization by going to https://heroeshelpingheroesmn.com/.
June is PTSD Awareness month. I used to believe post-traumatic stress disorder was a sign of weakness, a forbidden topic, or the “easy way out.” I have now learned it is none of the above. It is estimated that approximately 3.5% of the average US population suffers from PTSD. According to the Department of Justice, however, 15% of police officers suffer from PTSD as a result of their careers. 20% of each Firefighters and EMS suffer from PTSD. Due to the stigma associated with mental illness among these professions, these numbers are likely low, as they rely upon self-reporting of their symptoms and diagnoses.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is all consuming. Seemingly never-ending feelings of shame, worthlessness, cynicism, anger, irritability. The list goes on. For me and many others, PTSD ended our careers. Some, unfortunately, do not have the support system in place to make it another day.
After 14+ years as a police officer for the City of Minneapolis, my life and career have been significantly impacted by mental health conditions sustained during the course of my employment. In 2021, I was granted a medical disability retirement after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Although I am no longer employed as an officer, my life’s purpose continues to be helping people. As such, I founded Heroes Helping Heroes, a 501(c)(3) organization.
Heroes Helping Heroes is an organization designed to provide non-medical support for law enforcement officers, fire personnel and EMS personnel (collectively, “First Responders”) coping with mental health issues stemming from their employment, specifically PTSD, by offering them an opportunity to participate in programs with fellow First Responders suffering from PTSD and/or other work-related mental health issues.
Heroes Helping Heroes is unique in the sense that it is aimed toward both active and retired First Responders. We seek to provide early intervention and support to active First Responders, so they may continue to provide their dedicated service to the communities in which they serve. For retired First Responders, Heroes Helping Heroes provides a unique opportunity to connect with individuals who are coping with PTSD and other work-related injuries. We are the first and ONLY program in the State of Minnesota that addresses these issues through large and small social activities.
Heroes Helping Heroes provide first responders the opportunity to participate in events with other first responders such as: fishing, hunting, 4-wheeling, snowmobiling, camping, golf, wine and paint night and any other activity that is reasonable and fits the goals and mission of Heroes Helping Heroes.
We provide first responders with an opportunity to cope with mental health issues by being around fellow First Responders who have experienced similar traumatic events and have experienced the psychological changes associated with these events such as stress, anger, anxiety, fear, and isolation. Ultimately, our goal is to recreate and reinforce a sense of family. The bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood remain intact to help and support one another though these difficult times. These relationships remind each one of us that we are not forgotten and that we matter. Together, with all of us, we can make a difference and help our First Responders cope with and deal with mental health, so we can continue to live a productive life for both our families and communities.