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MCRA Connections

August 2021

In This Issue:

It’s hard to believe it is almost the end of August already.  Hope everyone has enjoyed the summer and had a chance to do at least a few of the things that people couldn’t do a year ago.
This issue of Connections is focused on self care.  This has been the focus of much talk over the last 18 months as we have been in various states of isolation (or still out there doing the job but with less support!). 
The annual MCRA Conference is one way to take care of yourself!  (See information about that in this issue).
We also provide some helpful links to resources as well as an article originally published in about trauma in law enforcement and information about dogs in crisis response.
We hope you enjoy this issue!
It's MCRA Conference Time!
This year’s MCRA conference is September 19-21, 2021 at the Park Place Conference Center in Traverse City, MI.   After not holding our training conference last year (casualty of the pandemic) and not having the option of holding the conference at the Kettenun Center, which closed permanently in 2020, our annual conference is back.  Click on the link below for class options and other details.
Join us in this new venue for new presentations and timely training.
FYI – Due to the popularity of this training, the block of rooms reserved at the MCRA conference rate have been filled at the Park Place Conference Center.  There are other hotel rooms in the area at similar rates.  Check out, Kayak,, Expedia, etc. for other hotel accommodations.
Click here to register online for the MCRA Training Conference
Frontline Strong Together
The State of Michigan set aside funding to address the behavioral health, especially PTSD, of First Responders, (Fire, EMS, Police, Dispatch and Corrections) and their families.  The State is contracting with Wayne State University and MCRA is part of this process that is providing ICISF training to first responders.
There is a website in progress that will have resources for first responders and their families including Behavior Health providers who have experience working with first responders.  A lot of sessions can be done virtually.  Education and coping skills will be presented via video.
Also, the Assisting Individuals in Crisis and Group Crisis Intervention (GRIN) training being provided through MCRA uses funds from this initiative to cover the cost of training's for first responders.  If you are registering to attend the GRIN Training at the Annual MCRA Conference, be sure to ask for Frontline Strong Together funding.  Use this link to ensure your conference cost are covered (must also register with MCRA):

If you cannot attend the Annual MCRA Conference September 19-21, 2021 you can still get basic CISM training by attending a GRIN Course on the following dates.

The Aching Blue: Trauma, Stress and Invisible Wounds of Those in Law Enforcement
Steve has served as a police officer for 24 years, including being a SWAT team member for years. He and I have worked together on his traumatic experiences. He has told me that in a given day a police officer might have to deal with two to three overdoses and do CPR.
He told me in one session: “What you see is someone lying on the ground, with things coming out of their mouth. Imagine trying to help them while their family is screaming and begging you to do it ‘quicker, quicker.’ Sometimes you cannot bring them back, and you witness families mourning someone they love. On the same day you come across a traffic stop where teenagers are actively shooting heroin into their arms, and you have to deal with an overdose situation again.” He continues, “The most traumatic are the ones you cannot save people.”
Steve remembered a train accident scene where he noticed the driver’s “complete brain” on the back seat of the car. A similar experience happened the next day at a suicide scene where someone had shot themself in the head.
I am a trauma expert who works with traumatized civilians, victims of torture and human trafficking, refugees and first responders. These days are tough for our nation, including those who work in law enforcement, because of the recent terrible incidents of police shooting, and contentious politicization of the law enforcement.
The nation is finally expressing intolerance for unjustifiable brutality, racism, and suffering caused by some in law enforcement. At the same time, I hope to also shed light on the tough experiences that cops and other first responders experience. I believe empathy is the key to mutual understanding.
Dallas police officers handle flowers they received at a roadblock outside their headquarters July 9, 2016, two days after five Dallas officers were killed by a gunman. AP Photo/Eric Gay

Stress and trauma among first responders
Steve’s stories echo those I have heard from other law enforcement officers, emergency medical staff, and firefighters. They are regularly exposed to serious injury, death, immediate threat to themselves, their colleagues and civilians, and very stressful decision-making situations. While people may have heard more about trauma in veterans, they may be less aware of first responder trauma. Others might think post traumatic stress disorder happens only to those who were directly traumatized.
However, PTSD also happens in those who witness trauma: exposure to violent crimes or serious accidents, or their aftermath. These events deeply affect the day-to-day lives of first responders, including the police. In one study published in 2013, about 80% of officers reported seeing dead bodies or severely assaulted victims in the past year.
The trauma can become cumulative for those in this line of work, or those who are repeatedly exposed to trauma for other reasons. Such cumulative trauma among first responders – and groups like veterans, refugees, and victims of human trafficking – worsens the negative impact, and may impede recovery.

A Dallas police officer composes himself at the conclusion of an honor guard presentation for slain Dallas Police Officer Michael Krol after a funeral in Plano, Texas. Krol was one of five police officers killed in Dallas by a lone gunman July 7, 2016. AP Photo/LM Otero

Far-reaching impact
PTSD is only one consequence of trauma exposure, which switches the brain to fight-or-flight mode, and quick survival-related decision-making. The brain is always on alert, trying to prevent recurrence of trauma.  Those with PTSD experience nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive memories, anger, insomnia, avoidance of any reminder of trauma, and social withdrawal, among other symptoms. Approximately 15% of the police officers in the U.S. and globally experience symptoms of PTSD. Numbers can be much higher based on exposure, such as after natural disasters or tragedies like 9/11.
Police officers show not only high levels of PTSD but also depression, anxiety and suicide.  More police officers and firefighters die by suicide than in line of duty, and unfortunately the number of suicide deaths among the police seems to be rising.  While many others might not meet all the criteria for PTSD, they still suffer from some symptoms such as insomnia, nightmares and isolation.
The challenges and the solutions
There are challenges specific to addressing trauma in the police and first responders, such as the stigma, and the “tough men/women” mentality. By nature, this job requires authority and control, and some officers, or their superiors, see vulnerability or seeking help as weakness.
The truth, however, is that all humans are vulnerable. We are not made to have such horrific experiences on a regular basis. Based on our unique biology and the severity and repetition of trauma, many of us will feel an impact; this is just how the human body and brain react to trauma and stress.
Part of the blame is on us medical and mental health experts because we sometimes might create a perception that a condition such as PTSD is a label the person has to live with forever.  Denial is often a response to believing the illness is one’s new identity.
Steve once told me that what he found most empowering in our first visit was when I said “We can fix this.” I was being honest with him; we can help a lot. One does not have to forever suffer the impact of trauma on their mental health, body (higher level of obesity, chronic pain and fatigue, and cardiovascular disease), career and family life.
We have effective interventions for trauma and stress.  Psychotherapy helps with learning adaptive ways of coping with stress, freeing memories from intense negative emotions, and not having to avoid safe situations (such as going to their kid’s games), and redefining the meaning of traumatic experience.  Medications help with insomnia, nightmares and flashbacks, and reduce the intensity of negative emotions, allowing use of the rational brain in stressful situations.
Steve and I worked together for some time. Steve is now enjoying work and family life again, and we just catch up once in a while. He now leads a peer-to-peer team that provides support and education to other officers after critical incidents, and mental health referral when needed.
If you are a first responder reading this and feel the weight of your tough experiences on your mind, or are losing sleep to nightmares, please reach out, call your doctor, employee assistance program or a mental health expert; you and your family deserve to be happy. We can fix this.

Resource: Originally published in ''. September 29, 2020.  Author: Arash Javanbakht, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Wayne State University. 
Stay Well Videos
Uplifting our Direct Care Workers: Mental Health Information and Resources for Direct Care Workers:

Burn Out link:
Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People:
K9's in Crisis Intervention
We have all grown up with the old familiar saying that “a dog is your best friend”.  All of us who have had a furry friend know the powerful calming effect they have on us.  Only in recent years have we become more aware of the significant health advantages that they can deliver to our lives.  Below is an article showing some of the changes that are occurring with K9 support for our Veterans. There are private groups and individuals using Crisis K9 after traumatic events involving First Responders.
“The dog has been esteemed and loved by all the people on earth and he has deserved this affection for he renders services that have made him man's best friend.”
― Alfred Barbou
The dynamics of Animal Assisted K9 in the Crisis Intervention world. Check out the link below about service dogs for veterans with PTSD.
Please let us know if you have any suggections for future issues of MCRA Connections (or want to submit an article)!
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