First responders recovering from PTSD create art

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NORTH KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The paintings, carvings, and drawings on display in Parkville, Missouri Friday night are milestones on the path of military members and first responders fighting PTSD. 

Rob Richter said he can now admit his life hit a low. Panic attacks kept the now-retired firefighter from completing training exercises. 

He discovered he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. He turned to the Valor Recovery Program at Signature Psychiatric Hospital for help. The organization runs a 28-day, in-patient treatment program followed by two weeks of outpatient care. 

“I was living, well I was surviving, but I sure wasn’t living,” Richter said. 

The Valor Program is intense. To give patients a slight reprieve, artist Jill Kernodle leads art therapy sessions. She uses paintings and other artistic mediums to wash away anxieties. 

“It’s cool because I know at that moment it’s peace and they don’t get a lot of that,” Kernodle said. 

It’s a peace that made the program successful for Richter, he said. He now writes poetry and picked up blacksmithing as a hobby. 

“Absolutely life can be bright and colorful and tasteful again,” he said. 

Richter and other past and current patients will share their artwork and the stories behind them Friday night to bring attention to the struggles first responders and military members face. 

The “Trauma Unmasked” art show takes place from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday at Parkville Artisan’s Studio located at 111 Main St., Parkville, MO.

It’s free and open to the public.