By Shawn Chitnis
DENVER (CBS4) – A retired police officer and firefighter traveling across the country on his motorcycle stopped in Colorado on Tuesday to raise awareness about post traumatic stress disorder and the potential for first responders to struggle with the illness.
“Over a 25- or 30-year career, the things that you see, the things that happen to you on the job, they take a toll on the mind and the body,” said Jeff Shepard, the founder of the Ride 4 Relief campaign.
He started his ride near Seattle and will end in Virginia over two weeks, raising money for the PTSD or Permission to Start Dreaming Foundation. Shepard medically retired after two separate incidents caused PTSD while he was an officer.
“I want to bring awareness so that’s why I’m stopping at all the police departments,” he told CBS4 while in Denver. “Finding out what they’re doing as a department to help with officer wellness and resiliency.”
Shepard first was diagnosed with PTSD after an ambush shooting. He later dealt with the illness again when it came back, triggered by an IED explosion. He says it was reassuring to hear about the programs in place for officers at the Denver Police Department.
“Our police and our firefighters also deal with PTSD and so bringing some awareness to that,” he said. “They’re really helping with the officer wellness and resiliency.”
He hopes his ride from one coast to the other will help more people realize that this is an issue for first responders at home, not just the military abroad. Shepard believes that anyone in public safety needs to know that they can seek help without worrying about their job or the stigma around mental health.
From Denver, he heads to Kansas City, Missouri and then St. Louis as well as Indianapolis.
“It’s a day on day struggle, you deal with it every day,” he said. “Those people out there wearing those uniforms and badges they’re human too, they’re struggling too.”