A year ago today Craig Tiger took his own life. While on duty Craig had been involved in a fatal shooting. He suffered for some time before being diagnosed with PTSD. I can only imagine how terrifying it was for him to experience the feelings of isolation and guilt in secret. When is PTSD resulted in a DUI the lack of mercy and understanding from the Chief at that time had an enormous impact on his healing and recovery and based on his own words led to his suicide. The two children he so clearly adored were left without their father. His ex-wife Rebecca Tiger fought to educate and continues to fight so that this does not happen to another officer. His death shook this city up.
As we strive to educate the city of Phoenix on service dogs and PTSD in our first responders it strikes me that some of those who are fighting their own battles may be discouraged. I’ve been looking up other cases of officers that suffer from PTSD and the stories are familiar. I read the tragic stories of Ken Barker, Ashley Bryant, Ron Francis, Paul Buchanan, John Seifert and Ryan Healy. I also read about survivors like Brian Post and Sgt. Rob Atkins who has a PTSD service dog.
One of the things that I keep reading over and over is that officers are concerned that if they come forward they will lose their jobs or the respect and trust of their peers. Seeing the current hassle that Scott is going through shouldn’t discourage anyone from getting help and support. Phoenix city management appears to be sorely in need of information and education but they are a very small portion of the greater community. The overall response to Scott and Bigby’s story has been overwhelmingly positive and encouraging, particularly from Scott’s coworkers. It seems that some magic in the world brought the most supportive officers in the universe here to Phoenix.
When Scott is feeling down he often references a post by Myke Cole. Myke is a fellow veteran Coastie, writer and good friend who like Scott has PTSD. Seeing a friend actively taking a role in being his best self with PTSD has helped Scott immensely. PTSD tends to be so incredibly dramatized and misunderstood. The media often depicts a world filled with outward chaos and violence. My experience with Scott has been one of a terrifying quiet. My favorite Myke post, What PTSD Is, has been the key to realizing that Scott was not alone. As Myke puts it: “It is the shaking realization that love cannot protect you, and even worse, that you cannot protect those you love. It is the final surrendering of the myth that, if you are decent enough, ethical enough, skilled enough, you’ll be spared.” I’ve watched this happen in real time and it is heart breaking. Like watching Superman next to a piece of kryptonite.
Until you realize that what made Superman so great was the Clark Kent aspect. There is no question that Clark would continue to help people however he could, superpowers or not. For me Scott is a hero because he is honest about what he is going through. He knows that telling the truth will help others.
Don’t be deterred by our current struggle if you need help. You have the support of your brothers and sisters in blue. Our communities support first responders with PTSD. As a family member who watches someone fight this every day I can tell you that your family and friends love you even if they can’t always understand.
You are not alone.
If you need help here are a few resources:
Safe Call: If you need immediate assistance please call 206-459-3020. This is a 24 hour line that is completely confidential for first responders and family members. You will get a live person who is a public safety employee themselves.
Badge of Life: I love this group because they seem so old school cop. Direct and detail oriented the group has many former and current officers on their board. If you are currently a first responder or family member of a first responder they will be very familiar with the unique stressors you face. They have services for both the US and Canada and their links page has lots of resources and programs for first responders. Check our their Facebook page too.
Psychologists/Counselors: One of the most important parts of Scott’s recovery has been the work he’s done and is going with a psychologist. Aren’t sure where to go? Try asking a friend. That’s how Scott found his and I think it helped him to start with a foundation of trust. You can always get a reference from your insurance or employee assistance program too.
EMDR: This stands for eye movement desensitization and processing. Scott and I first heard about this in our college psychology class. It’s an intense version of therapy that targets specific traumatic memories and utilizes a light bar. I was pretty skeptical when I first heard about it but when it was recommended that Scott try it I was on board. He went to a psychologist that was specifically trained to utilize this method for PTSD. Scott felt it was very beneficial and I feel like I saw results too.
Acupuncture: Yes I know. I tend to be very skeptical of alternative medicine too. However, you can find lots of people that find this beneficial. Don’t rule it out if you don’t mind having tiny needles stuck in you. Scott had this done more for the horrible digestive issues he was having and the results were immediate and impressive. When someone has had extreme pain at every meal for 8 months and immediately after their first acupuncture session they eat a burger no problem you become a believer.
Foundation for Service Dog Support: This is the group that Scott is working with. Getting Bigby was a game changer for Scott and for me too. It’s been a lot of work and clearly there have been challenges but for us it has been worth it for the chance for Scott to feel like a whole person again. They are based out of the Phoenix area but have an outlier program for outlier areas.