by Lori Johnson, TIJF Outreach and Development Coordinator

Over the last 12 years, through our SHIFT program, The Innocent Justice Foundation has been working to support law enforcement and their affiliates in ICAC task force teams across the country by helping them learn to mitigate the effects of vicarious trauma. We are the National Training and Technical Assistance provider for officer wellness support through the Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. We have learned through these efforts and those we serve that this type of wellness training and support helps to keep professionals healthy and doing their jobs in their communities. Consequences like burn-out, depression, substance abuse and suicide are all preventable when the trauma is recognized and worked through.

The Innocent Justice Foundation is happy to see this work being recognized by many organizations and now similar programs are popping up across the country, to give law enforcement and others a way to invest in themselves by prioritizing mental health and wellness support and training.  We are proud to be one of the first organizations to do this vital work with law enforcement professionals and to recognize the extreme need all those years ago.

The Motorola Solutions Foundation believes in what we have done too, and they have generously provided a grant for us to create a program serving professionals in victim services, including those who work in health care, mental health, law enforcement, emergency services, education, and even the news media. Anyone exposed to the trauma of others. We are excited to announce we have launched HART, Helping Advocates Rebound from Trauma and have begun inviting those who are interested in receiving this training to let us know!

Many professionals work directly with crime victims or encounter survivors of traumatic events or traumatic materials daily in their careers. In addition to the field of victim assistance, this includes those who work in health care, mental health, law enforcement, emergency services, education, lawyers and even the news media.

Consequences vary from person to person, from burn-out to suicide. One thing we know for sure, often saving the lives of others can damage your own, especially if you don’t pay attention and the culture within organizations does not acknowledge it as an issue.

  • “In the first national study of its size, researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine and UC San Diego Health, Department of Nursing, have found that male and female nurses are at higher risk of suicide than the general population.” -UCSD Health
  • “Another study found that more firefighters died by suicide than in the line of duty in 2017.” – Fire Rescue 1
  • “The men and women who work in law enforcement and emergency services are exposed to special kinds of traumatic events and daily pressures that sometimes overwhelm defenses and result in maladaptive psychological syndromes. By dint of attitude, training, and social norms, these “tough guys” are often resistant to psychotherapy in its traditional forms, and so special therapeutic approaches are required.” – Lawrence Miller

Currently, HART is being delivered as a 3-part virtual training broken into three shorter trainings rather than a full day event. In the future, we plan to provide this program in-person, and are looking forward to that transition.

Please share this article with your connections. Those of you who have been with us since the beginning or have experienced the benefit of SHIFT in your own lives or the lives of your colleagues, are our best advocates as we reach out to support others.

Anyone interested in bringing the HART training to their teams or places of employment can email Lori@innocentjustice.org to be placed on the invite list.


Resources:

UCSD Health https://health.ucsd.edu/news/releases/Pages/2020-02-03-national-study-confirms-nurses-at-higher-risk-of-suicide.aspx
Fire Rescue 1 https://www.firerescue1.com/fallen-firefighters/articles/study-more-firefighters-died-by-suicide-than-in-the-line-of-duty-in-2017-bSXUHJIWgOtMQCcU/
Tough guys: Psychotherapeutic strategies with law enforcement and emergency services personnel. By Lawrence Miller https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1996-00446-008