After the Webinar: Understanding Compassion Fatigue for First Responders and Criminal Justice Professionals. Q&A with Wendy Hummell

Webinar presenter Wendy Hummell answered a number of your questions after her presentation, Understanding Compassion Fatigue for First Responders and Criminal Justice Professionals. Here are just a few of her responses.


Audience Question: Which episode do you talk specifically about the impact of sugar? 

Wendy Hummell: Okay, so I don’t talk about that on the podcast, but I heard that information from a different podcast. But the name of the podcast was the Neuroscience in Social and Emotional Learning. I’d have to look to see which episode it was that I heard that on, but then that’s kind of what led me down my path of researching that topic. But I myself have not talked about that on my podcast. So, thank you for that idea though.

Host: Got it well I’m sure I’m probably the one who misheard that and again, the name of that podcast is Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning?

Wendy Hummell: Right. That’s the podcast I first learned about that.



Audience Question: My co-worker is showing multiple symptoms of compassion fatigue. How do you recommend that I approach the subject with them?

Wendy Hummell: Well, one of the things that I didn’t discuss today is I don’t know what type of agency this person works for, but we have a peer support program. So, we have about 25 trained peer support personnel currently at our agency. And so, if it’s not something that you feel comfortable talking to this person about. If you do have someone who, or a peer support team, I recommend reaching out to them because they might be able to give you some guidance. But if it’s somebody who you’re close with and you feel comfortable talking to, it may just sometimes be starting up or striking up a conversation. Oftentimes, people just want to be heard and listened to, and you never know what you’re going to get. And then a second thing that I would say, depending on what agency you work for, a lot of agencies, have employee assistance programs. So, if you feel like they may go the route of maybe getting some therapy or talking to a clinician. I know some agencies don’t have the greatest EAP, but we’re really fortunate at Sedgwick County, we’ve got outstanding mental health clinicians that are culturally competent. And not only are they great when people need to go get therapy, but they’re a really good resource. So, if I ever have a question about a situation, they’re really good to talk to. So, peer support, just sitting down and listening, and an EAP for the first few things that kind of come to mind.



Audience Question: How did you convince your departments to start this position of wellness coordinator? 

Wendy Hummell: That is a good question. So, it’s not something that happened overnight. I can tell you that. So, like I said, I retired from the Wichita Police department after 21 years in January of 2019. Some of the things, that I’ve discussed, I had been doing with my former agency on a collateral level. It was never a full-time position for me when I was with the police department. But when I retired, the Sheriff’s office, which is in the same town, coincidentally the sheriff, who’s someone that I had known because he used to work for the police department, was very, very interested in doing something for wellness for his agency. He’d been doing a lot of research and attending sheriff’s conferences. And so, he was kind of reached out to me. We knew the type of work I had been doing, and kind of decided to make this a full-time position so that he could commit somebody to really roll this out and promote it. So, we’ve actually gotten a grant and our agency through the COPS Office. There’s a lot of push on the national level for wellness for first responders law enforcement in particular. So, chances are that you’ll probably see a lot more of these types of positions. And in some cases, some agencies have whole entire units’ wellness units, not just one person.



Audience Question: I am starting an overdose fatality review, a multi-disciplinary team that reviews cases of overdoses to improve system-level gaps. This team involves first responders. Any recommendations for covering this topic with such a diverse audience? 

Wendy Hummell: Ooh, yeah, that’s a good question. What sounds like, and I don’t know, all of the people that are in that group. But I have, I’ve addressed audiences where it’s not just first responders. And oftentimes, I feel like people who are helpers, whether it be mental health clinicians, victim advocates, dispatchers, first responders, I think a lot of how we frame things can be very similar, depending on the topic. So, I think that, oftentimes, depending on specifically what you’re talking about, I think that just being aware of the culture and the differences between what they do and what others do is important. And so maybe bringing in someone, who is a first responder that’s part of that group, potentially. Or maybe somebody who’s affiliated with what you’re doing, and it kind of get their input on, how do I approach this topic or subject with this group?



Audience Question: Do you think our lived experiences influence or shape, whether we’re an egg bean or a carrot? 

Wendy Hummell: Personally, I do, I don’t know how they can. And that kind of goes back to what I mentioned in the very beginning, which again, we didn’t have a whole lot of time to discuss, which is when we come into these professions, we have, I call it this pot of stew and it’s a lot of times a quarter or even half full before we even start this profession, depending on our lived experience and what happens in childhood. Those experiences shape the architecture of our brains. So, absolutely, I think, what our lived experiences influence all of that. But I do think that, let’s say you’re not a bean. It’s not innate or inherent to you. It is a skill that I believe can be developed.



Audience Question: Can you talk through some of the symptoms of compassion fatigue against some of those things that you will commonly see? 

Wendy Hummell: So, a lot of times, the symptoms that we have listed under compassion fatigue may seem a bit familiar to you on some of these other lists. So, things that I listed off were sleep disruption, maybe not having the same enthusiasm or goals at work, maybe isolation, black and white thinking, all those types of things. Sometimes it can lead to more anxiety, depression. The list goes on and on. And again, the biggest thing when it comes to compassion fatigue is that it’s that idea that we no longer care, or we can call it the cost of caring. Again, a lot of times when people are experiencing compassion fatigue, probably one of the number one way we see it, but I’m speaking from experience is that people start to get in trouble more at work. They may start to get more citizen complaints, or maybe just not following through, or maybe staffing it at a victim or somebody that they’re dealing with, because their give-a-crap-meter has just kind of gone a little haywire, so to speak.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of Understanding Compassion Fatigue for First Responders and Criminal Justice Professionals.



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