Webinar presenters Wendy Hummell, Darren Ivey and Brenda Dietzman answered a number of your questions after their presentation, Resilience Tools: Ideas for People Who Have Stories. Here are just a few of their responses.
Audience Question: In dealing with the aftermath of a crisis, such as the shooting in Texas, how do you help responders deal with the media and community backlash, questioning responders’ responses?
Darren Ivey: That’s actually part of my training, Building Resilience: Surviving Secondary Trauma. After a traumatic experience, what you want to do is please stay off as much the news channels as possible, and the news sites, and I know that’s going to be hard. It’s so hard for us; people will want the information, and we are Type-A driven people who want to help. So, we want as much information as possible. So, if you cannot, at least, then please stay out of the comments section, at least do that part. Because that’s the part that’s really going to usually tick people off because that’s where the Monday morning quarterback who lives in their parents’ basement in front of the keyboard is going to put those up or even the other country’s computer bots that do that to cause division. So, stay out of those comments sections. That’s the best advice I can give. Also, it’s very important that you and your people have an avenue to talk about how they’re feeling.
Audience Question: Faith and spirituality has been mentioned several times in this presentation. How does the presenters see chaplains as a resource in this peer support and wellness realm? It seems, recently, chaplains have been overlooked in favor of peer support and one-and-done solutions. What’s your advice regarding chaplains?
Wendy Hummell: So, it’s perfect timing for that question. One thing I’ll say to that is: I think that again, when we talk about even just peer support, it’s not a one size fits all. Maybe somebody wants a chaplain, maybe they don’t want peer support. Maybe they don’t want a therapist. Actually, I heard this from a guest on my podcast, he talked about the three legs of a stool, peer support, therapy, and chaplaincy, when it comes to putting together your peer support program. And so here at the agency that I’m at. We’ve done a really good job. Starting peer support, actually, just hired our own therapist. We’ve got a lot of great stuff happening. We just had a chaplain come through our peer support training last week. And so, I couldn’t agree more. It has been the last thing that we’re implementing. But it’s a really crucial piece. We do have chaplains that come into the facility because the agency I work at, where Brenda retired from, is a Sheriff’s office. So, we’ve got people that work in the jail. And then we have people that work out on the street as well. We already have chaplains that go in and have started to talk to the people not just the inmates, but also the people that work in the facility. So, we are definitely integrating that into our program. I know a lot of other programs are further ahead, and I think Daren is probably familiar with Kansas City. There are a lot of chaplains that are involved in peer support.
Audience Question: Wendy, one of our audience members commented that they do have a wellness program through their insurance program, but not through their agency. While this might be better than nothing, are there reasons why an agency would still want their own wellness program? Or what’s your advice?
Wendy Hummell: And I don’t know what particular type of agency the person is coming from. But I can tell you that I do think it’s important. So, for instance, I work in a county, and we’ve got different benefits for all people that work for the agency, but the Sheriff’s office has a wellness program, and I am the wellness coordinator just for the sheriff’s office. Here’s why. The type of work that we do is very unique and different. And then some people that work in other parts of the county, I’m not saying that their work isn’t important, but there are some special circumstances. And having culturally competent clinicians and people that are a little bit more familiar with the type of work that we do, is really crucial. And there are just some little special nuances. And I think it’s really important to still consider having your own wellness initiative, even if you’ve got that overarching kind of HR thing, where I think it’s typically you get like sometimes there are points involved in a monetary reward and some money off insurance, things like that. And that’s great. I’m not taking away from that, but I think there’s so much more you can do to build out wellness holistically.
Audience Question: How important do you think taking vacations are for healing? How do you convince staff members who are dedicated to a job to take that break?
Brenda Dietzman: Oh, I’ll do that one, because I’m a vacation alcoholic, I think. You know, getting away and being able to spend time doing what you want, doing unique things. One of the things we know about our brains is that it ignores consistencies, and it pays attention to inconsistency. So, when we are outside of our normal environment, when we’re doing these things, when we’re doing our hobbies, like, I’m a big photographer, so I’ve taken all the pictures I can, or maybe not. But I figured a lot of pictures around my ups. So, getting out, being able to do new and interesting things. It is one of those things that contribute to, if you’ve ever taken a strength finders test, that zest in life and that’s part of thriving through life. So, recharging and renewing are incredibly important. So, again, get curious, like, go out to some of these, and find some science on it. Listen to some Ted Talks, do something like that. Do things that are unique and exciting. Even if it’s not a vacation, just doing unique and interesting things around the home, as well. But getting into the inconsistencies of life and of doing something unique is very important.
Audience Question: If a police department has sworn civilians that deal with pretty serious cases, yet doesn’t provide a peer support group, due to the fact that they’re not technically an officer. What do you suggest the civilians do to debrief?
Darren Ivey: I want to hand it off to Wendy as the Peer support expert. But first, one of the things, if you’re a supervisor, I, tried to always do, later, in my career. And I highly encourage it, is called micro debriefs. After every single one of those tough calls, grab your people around a car and if possible get them away from the scene. Get them in a safe place where they don’t see things, where they are not working, and talk about the call. As a leader, always, start off your part because it makes it a safe environment by saying, “I don’t know how you all feel about this, but this call made me sad, this call made me angry,” or “I’m tired of these type of calls.” And then go around and give people a chance. They don’t have to say anything but give them the freedom to process and get out what they’re feeling. Anybody can do that no matter who you are. But it’s very sad that your civilian employees are not included as part of peer support.
Wendy Hummell: We have on our peer support team, it’s representative of the entire agency. And it’s not just sworn commission, it’s not just people that work in the jail. We’ve got civilian members of our agency, which is important because people don’t understand, they often forget about people who work in records. We haven’t really talked a lot about what secondary trauma is, that they are around all of these things just as much as we are. They hear about it from the officers, they listen to the reports. They read the reports. So, if any, any agency leader doesn’t think it’s important to include people that are civilians in peer support and supporting them the way they do the rest of the agency. There would be an argument to say that one thing, I would just bring up a secondary trauma and, and I don’t, I think it’s almost unacceptable to do that. I mean, you’ve really got to include everybody.
Brenda Dietzman: Yeah. Yeah, there. I always said the civilians and our organizations were the ones that were kind of the glue to our organization, so important. And I don’t care what type of profession you’re in. We’re all in this together and we need that support.
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