Webinar presenter Jonathan Parker answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Watch Your Six: Because Making It Home Is Just the Beginning. Here are just a few of his responses.
Audience Question: You talked about the six areas. People are listening out there and they’re feeling like life is getting a bit too much, kind of like the tin man, and feeling like a little bit like the tin man. Which should the six areas might need it most important to start with first? I know they are all important but where do we start?
Jonathan Parker: There’s this old adage. How do you eat an elephant? And it’s one bite at a time. It can seem overwhelming but you have to start with one step at a time. My advice as you’ll see as we begin to develop an action plan is to pick one area that you sense the greatest need in. You may be having problems or issues in multiple areas, start with one area. Develop with one strategy, one goal, one resource. Pursue help in that one area and work on it and then later you can begin to work with other areas. What you’ll see is it has a synergistic effect that when you begin to work on one thing it’s not just one plus one but it becomes multiplied. Yes, it can absolutely seem overwhelming. Start in the one area that you feel like you have the area of greatest need. Just pick one area, start there and then you can continue from there.
Audience Question: Can you restate what was the sixth area of personal help for those of us who experienced that quick technical glitch during your presentation?
Jonathan Parker: Yes. I’ll go back to that screen. That sixth area is Ministry Health. I will say that again, I used that term number one because it starts with an M and hopefully if you did hear I talked about other governments we used the term minister of this instead of secretary, we used minister of something and so minister is the term that simply means to serve or a servant. We are all servants and so that word minister or ministry. I’m using it to talk in terms of our spiritual health and wellbeing. Not just faith but also those moral, ethical, spiritual issues of guilt, taking life, the value of life, things like that.
Audience Question: What do you do personally for your own self-care? Do you do it weekly, monthly, daily? What do you do to keep yourself on balance?
Jonathan Parker: Basically, I could kind of touch on each of those areas but for me, faith is very important so I start usually every morning eating a bowl of cereal or whatever I’m eating for breakfast and I’ll read some scriptures from the Bible. That for me is how I start my day with a few minutes of prayer maybe before I hop into the shower. I already mentioned that I’m on a plant-based lifestyle. I drink lots of water, so I’m doing everything I can intentionally to eat well. I go to the gym at least two to three times a week. I try to do that. I’m also very intentional about spending time with my family and making them a priority. I’m blessed with, sounds like I’m complaining but I am not but I am blessed with a wife who holds me accountable. There are times when I’m working more and I’m away from home, she reminds me you’ve been gone every night this week. You need to stay home. And so I make my family a priority. I have been to counseling many times. I have used employee assistance programs and so those are some of the things that do in each of the areas regularly to try to practice good self-care.
Audience Question: Are officers starting to accept mental health and recognizing that it’s not a sign of weakness? Are you seeing that change in our culture?
Jonathan Parker: I want to say yes and no. I think the question we should be asking – yes I do believe that there is some more recognition. The question is what is the level of willingness to use the services that are available and actually that’s a 2015 study that I was referencing. Police officers willingness to use stress intervention services: The role of perceived organizational support confidentiality and stigma. The question is yes we realize that there are issues. Are we willing to make use of those services and so that’s really where we got to go. It’s not just the services available but how do we now get over the humps so that we address the stigma, we address the issues of confidentiality. I can tell you in my agency, one of the things I’ve found out is that there are a lot of people who do not trust the EAP, employee assistance program. They think well as soon as they call that number, somebody is reporting back to administration and can be used against me. Absolutely not and both agencies that I’ve worked for, your calling number is connected to your healthcare system. They refer you out to a provider. I would just remind you that when you go to a counselor or psychologist unless the job has specifically sent you for a fit-for-duty evaluation, what you say in that counseling office is legally binding confidential. That counselor can not disclose what you were all talking about unless of course your suicidal or homicidal or things like that and so we need to be stressing the confidentiality of services. We need to be addressing the stigma of the services and we need to be working within our organizations to say it’s okay to not be okay and to get the help. The help is there. I think we’re becoming more aware of both the help and the need for help, now we just got to address the willingness to use the help.
Audience Question: I haven’t thought of the fact that some people may not realize that it is truly confidential. Are you seeing agencies share that and stress that in reminding people that it truly is confidential?
Jonathan Parker: I think some are. There’s a level of healthy skepticism because there are some leaders and administrators for whatever reason that use that information against people. I wrote an article on my blog called the law enforcement leadership blacklist where people are blacklisted for various issues and I think we got to grow up and that’s the issue when we talk about missional health, leadership development. I think we got to work on some of those areas so we get there. Jim Collins’ Good to Great talk about getting the right people in the right seats on the bus related to leadership and administration so that our people really trust and feel cared for. So yes I think I am seeing more of that and I’ll also have to be reminded that many of our agencies around the country are very rural agencies where they are not afforded as many resources in training and development so we still have a long way to go.