Film Raises Awareness About PTSD in First Responders
More than 400 people filled a darkened theater in Irving, Texas on November 3, 2022, for the world premiere of PTSD911, the most recent film from Emmitsburg resident, Conrad Weaver. PTSD911 is a relevant and timely documentary exploring the post-traumatic stress in first responders, as well as the importance of providing resources and training necessary to equip first responders with the tools they can use to mitigate the impact of the traumas they experience on the job.
The comments after the premiere in Texas were very positive. Samantha Horwitz, a former Secret Service Agent and now the co-host of A Badge of Honor Podcast, said, “Wow! Wow! Wow! The emotion, vulnerability, and reality of what [Conrad] captured was astounding. You could feel it in the theatre last night.” Her comments were echoed by Monica Million, former president of the National Emergency Number Association, “Thank you for the care with which you told this story. It was very moving and impactful. All in our community need to see it, including decision makers.”
Weaver began working on the film after spending time with local law enforcement and emergency service agencies while shooting his previous film, Heroin’s Grip. After a few ride-alongs, he began to research how traumatic scenes affect first responders and uncovered the issue of PTSD within the first responder community. He discovered that the risk of suicide among first responders is exponentially higher than among the general population, and many first responders are afraid of losing their job if they ask for help. These experiences inspired him to create this film.
“We expect first responders to show up when we call and take care of us on our worst day, but many times—more often than not—the first responders themselves are not doing well. We must do better. We can do better, and we show that in this film,” said Weaver.
PTSD911 follows the wellness journey of three first responders: a firefighter from Anaheim, California; a dispatcher from Boston; and a former Frederick City Police officer. Their stories are the backbone of the film, but Weaver also weaves in stories from other first responders, as well as commentary and informative content from mental health experts who work with first responders. Weaver captured b-roll footage for the film from several Frederick County agencies, including from the 9-1-1 Emergency Call Center and the Vigilant Hose Company in Emmitsburg.
The goals of this film are to:
1. Raise Awareness
Most civilians don’t know or understand the issue of post-traumatic stress in first responders. The goal is to educate the viewer and stimulate change in people’s behavior and attitudes toward our nation’s first responders. First responders are heroes who not only deserve applause, but also deserve to have access to the support networks that can help mitigate the ongoing stress that trauma can bring.
2. End the Stigma
To help first responders realize it’s okay to ask for help. The case studies featured in the film depict individuals and agencies who are helping their members realize that it is okay to raise one’s hand and ask for help.
3. Inspire Systemic Change
No one should get fired just because they are struggling with the traumas they have faced, and they have asked for help. It is vital to implement healthy changes and training within first-responder agencies so that their members get the mental health help they need and can continue to be productive in their public service to our communities.
Weaver and his team are now bringing the film to cities all across the United States, including a multi-city Bike and Film tour in the summer of 2023. Weaver and his friend John will ride bicycles from Astoria, Oregon, to Ocean City, Maryland, stopping at 25 cities along the way to show the film. They will be coming through Frederick County on July 13, when they plan on showing the film at a local venue. Tickets for the Frederick County screening will be available on the website: ptsd911movie.com.
Following their film tour, Weaver will release an educational toolkit, which will contain the film and additional video footage, as well as resources for first-responder agencies. The film’s production was sponsored in part by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Lighthouse Health and Wellness, and the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation among other organizations and hundreds of individuals from around the globe.
To learn more about the film, watch the trailer and learn where it can be seen, including the bike and film tour. Visit www.ptsd911movie.com.
Conrad Weaver (left) with Tom Morris Jr, LIVE-PD, who Emceed the Premiere Q&A.
Principal cast and producers of PTSD911.
Conrad Weaver (left) during a PTSD911 ride-along with Anaheim Fire in 2021.