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How peer support and police chaplains build wellness in law enforcement

Exploring proactive strategies for mental health and wellness within the law enforcement community with Chief Dave Norris and Chaplain Jared Altic

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In a profession as demanding as law enforcement, mental wellness and health are paramount, yet often sidelined. Addressing this critical aspect, the latest episode of the Policing Matters podcast delves into the innovative approaches and best practices for fostering mental health and wellness among officers.

Chief Dave Norris of the Menlo Park (Calif.) Police Department and Chaplain Jared Altic from the Kansas City (Kan.) Police Department join host Jim Dudley to shed light on the proactive measures and support systems necessary to ensure the well-being of those who protect and serve. Chief Norris and Chaplain Altic share their extensive experiences in handling critical incident aftermaths and emphasize the importance of preemptive strategies for mental wellness. From establishing peer support programs and chaplaincy initiatives to leveraging technology and community resources, our guests offer a comprehensive overview of how agencies can build a supportive environment for their officers.

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Memorable quotes

  • “One of the things that I discovered early on is the importance of rebuilding our wellness tools.” — Chief Dave Norris
  • “Ideally your chaplaincy program and your peer support program are working hand in hand. That is not always the case.” — Chaplain Jared Altic
  • “We know there are mobile apps that aggregate all of the available services that you have. I think those are great because you know this is the generation that really wants that at their fingertips.” — Chief Dave Norris
  • “Anything related to health, including mental health, is like a river that is flowing toward a waterfall. if you want to stay healthy, you have to actively put in energy to keep it moving upstream toward something healthier versus toward disaster.” — Chaplain Jared Altic

Key takeaways

  1. Proactive measures: Law enforcement agencies are shifting toward a more proactive stance on mental wellness, implementing systems for early intervention, support groups, and regular wellness assessments. This approach aims to prevent mental health issues before they escalate, ensuring officers remain mentally resilient and healthy.
  2. Building effective support systems: Creating a supportive environment within law enforcement is crucial. By developing peer support programs staffed by trustworthy officers, integrating chaplaincy for spiritual and emotional support, and engaging with community resources, agencies are fostering a holistic approach to officer wellness.
  3. Innovative approaches to mental health: Agencies are embracing innovation to address mental health challenges, utilizing technology such as wellness resource apps and forming partnerships for shared wellness coordinators. These initiatives offer personalized and comprehensive wellness services, making support more accessible to officers.
  4. Leadership’s role in promoting wellness: Leadership within law enforcement plays a pivotal role in prioritizing mental health. By maintaining open lines of communication about available resources, encouraging officers to seek help proactively, and demonstrating genuine concern for their wellbeing, leaders are fostering a supportive culture.
  5. Encouraging personal responsibility and openness: Officers are encouraged to proactively manage their mental health by recognizing signs of stress and seeking support. Additionally, efforts are being made to normalize discussions around mental health issues within the law enforcement community, reducing stigma and encouraging openness and mutual support.

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Policing Matters law enforcement podcast with host Jim Dudley features law enforcement and criminal justice experts discussing critical issues in policing