Peer Support, this is it! This is what we’ve trained for!
The whole world is experiencing a critical incident. The mental health for ourselves and the first responders we serve during this world pandemic will be one of the biggest challenges a Peer Support Unit will face now and in the future. Our responsibility as peer support teams and coordinators has never been more important for the departments we serve. This is not an easy task.
First, peer support members have to check on themselves. Are you ok? How has this pandemic affected you personally and professionally? Are you practicing self-care for you and your family? Take note if you’re going to help others, make sure you are mentally and physically ready to receive the gamut of emotions from those who you are helping.
Peer support coordinators, after you have done your own self-assessment, check in on your team. Make sure everyone is good to go. This is the time your team has to be honest with each other. A peer support team in crisis will never be able to serve their departments adequately. The mental health of a department is only as good as its peer support unit. The bottom line is a peer support unit can’t be absent during this pandemic or any other crisis.
Once a peer support unit has done their own assessment of their people, then comes the next big step of reaching out to your department. This task is vital because first responders need to be reminded their Peer Support Unit is a resource designed for them to use in times of crisis. They need to know the unit recognizes they are working under challenging conditions. Not only do first responders have to think about their safety, but they also worry about coming home to their families and possibly infecting them.
Peer support should also emphasize to first responders they are available no matter what the crisis is. Other critical incidents cannot take the back burner to this pandemic.
We don’t know the forecast of when this pandemic will be over. Peer support teams must continue their training through the many virtual training outlets currently available. Until then, a peer support unit must adapt to the changes through continued self-assessments for the unit by the coordinator, chaplain services, and staff clinicians.
We wish everyone and their families all the best. Please be careful out there. CB & JB
Resources for training:
- That Peer Support Couple www.cathyandjavi.com
- International Critical Incident Stress Management www.icisf.org (Providing virtual training)
- Dr. Stephanie Conn www.firstresponderpsychology.com
- Caruth Police Institute www.cpi.untdallas.edu-virtual (Providing virtual training)
- Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute www.texasstateofmind.org (Providing virtual training)
- Warriors Rest Foundation www.warriorsrestfoundation.org
Cathy and Javier Bustos are law enforcement officers in Central Texas. As “That Peer Support Couple, LLC” they are strong peer support advocates speaking about surviving critical incidents and marriage. They can be reached by email: [email protected] or www.cathyandjavi.com