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ASC Webinar Transcripts

Comfort During Chaos: Applying Skills to the Service of Others

Recorded on Thursday October 4, 2018

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Last updated 10/30/2018


Visual: Opening slide “Comfort During Chaos Applying Skills to the Service of Others”

Audio: Instrumental music

Visual: Slide changes to “Introductions” and includes an image of all three presenters.

Audio: Michelle: Hi my name is Michelle Vincent and I am an active duty police officer. I worked for a year [unclear] and I've been an officer for 17 years and I'm also a mental health therapist and I deal primarily with first responders dealing with traumatic event. And I'm part of a multitude of mental health supports for our first responders within our organization as well. I'm really happy to be presenting and working with you all today.

Audio: Michael: Yes, a good morning good afternoon or good evening everyone depending on where you're calling in from. My name is Michael Smith I'm a PhD candidate in the industrial organizational psychology program with a specialization on leadership development and coaching. Just a quick background I 26 did years of active duty in the Air Force transition to the civilian sector we're on a trail leader in a Berkshire Hathaway company for consumers. Last year my corporate jobs you start my own business consulting coaching and training. Excited about it and thank you all so much for taking time out of your day.

Audio: Dr. Kimberly Cox: Hello from California, my name is Dr. Kimberly Cox. I've been with Walden University since 2008 as a faculty member at School of Psychology. And before we begin our presentation we would like to thank the Academic Skills Center and Dr. William Schultz founding director from Welcome Center for social change and an opportunity today and we thank all of you.

Visual: Slide changes to “Agenda” and includes the agenda for the session.

Audio: Michael:  So, the agenda will go over some learning outcomes, Dr. Cox will present on research and social change, Michell will then present on applying knowledge and skills to enact positive social change. And again, she's from Toronto Canada. I'll be taking applying knowledge and skills to a real-world tragedy. I'm in Las Vegas, Nevada. And then at the end of this session we will have a facilitated Q&A; and discussion.

Visual: Slide changes to “Learning Outcomes” which include:

  • Explain the relationship between research and social change.
  • Describe how skills acquired or honed through educational pursuits can generate positive social change for individuals, organizations, communities, and societies.

Audio: Michael: So today there are two overarching learning comes that we want everyone to take away from this and those are being able to explain the relationship between research and social change and then secondly to describe how skills acquired or honed through educational pursuits can generate positive social change for individuals, organizations communities and societies both where we live and work every day.

Visual: Slide changes to “Research & Social Change” and includes the role of the scholar practitioner.

Audio: Kimberly: I will address the first one objective about the relationship between research and social change. To begin I will describe three main qualities or roles but the small petitioner in this relationship, then I will talk about the connection between a social problem and a research problem and last and we share a visual representation of the research social change relationship. So, if scholar-practitioner maintains of balance of both passion about a particular social problem and objectivity you do this by engaging in critical thinking we conduct research to gather evidence about the problem and its potential solutions can we engage in or an ask positive social change based on the evidence. Now what you may have noticed from the description is that scholar practitioners need to conserve a set of skills to carry out their role. And this still that is something that can be developed and strengthened and Walden university provides the opportunity for doing this.

For the scholar-practitioner one of the initial steps in the research process is conceptualizing a social problem into a research problem. Now a social problem typically refers to an issue or condition that has immediate consequences for a large group of people or society. A research problem is a topic you study to understand it is an academic problem that warrants further investigation because it represents a gap in the research literature. And its findings will contribute to [unclear].

The scholar practitioner must transition from a social problem to research problem is accomplished in a few ways. First by gathering current relevant evidence that research problem exists in a discipline or professional field. In so in other words, is there in the gap in research literature, something we do not yet know about the social problem. And then evaluating this social problem by checking one's own assumptions to remain objective and this requires critical thinking and also self-awareness of one's own biases and how they might be expressed in one's work. And last by forming a persuasive academic argument to justify the relevance and currency of the research problem. A scholar practitioner’s argument in academic their studies is based on evidence not emotions or opinions I'm doing so this lends credibility to their work.

Visual: Slide changes to graphic flow chart that includes the research process for social change.

Audio: Kimberly: A visual representation of the relationship between research and social change is shown in this figure. Now the research process is complex but the intention of this simplified figure is to show that a social problem can lead to your research project through the conceptualization of a research problem. The findings from that research project and inform potential social change implications. Then I'm through engagement and social change, based on the evidence, the social problem is addressed in such way that the lives of individuals, organizations, institution communities and their cultures have improved as a result of the research being conducted. So, we come full circle and for the scholar practitioner, it is the circle or cycle that guides their work.

It is now my pleasure to turn the presentation over to Michelle Vincent and Michael Smith who, as scholar practitioners will share with you how they are applying their knowledge and skills to effect social change.

Visual: Slide changes to include images of newspaper clippings on police officer deaths, including attacks, suicides, and funerals.

Audio: Michelle: First of all, I would like to think they could do Dr. Cox for her introduction into this and thank you Michael as well. And so basically, I became very passionate about mental health in first responders after seeing so many of my colleagues, who are they're like family we spend a lot of time together a lot more than in most professions, I watch them suffer in silence as a result of the traumatic event that they have repeatedly attended over their years of service.

A good friend of mine, then a platoon mate, died by suicide with the use of his service firearm, leaving behind his two adoring boys. And how do first responders or primarily police, get to that point of being in so much pain or even just living on with it?

Visual: Slide changes to include a bar chart of Canadian public safety suicides from 2017.

Audio: Michelle: So here we have some tested statistics of first responders dying by suicide and although these are somewhat up to date. I can tell you that the actual reported statistics are not reflected of the actual suicides. We're still working on having people come forward and letting others know that they have died by suicide.

Hi Dr. Schulz.

Audio: Dr. Schulz: Yeah hey Michelle this is Bill Schultz, could you go back to that slide for a second? So, when you when you were explaining on unreported incidents, is that part of why is that part of why maybe there's a, I was really taken by how the paramedics were affected in this. Obviously the police data alone is worse worrisome and disturbing but the paramedic, are they we are they is what's happened you think maybe what's happening is the paramedic folks report this more accurately? Because that's there they're kind of off the chart.

Audio: Michelle: That's a really good question Dr. Schultz and actually I would say that the numbers in terms of proportion are accurate. Paramedics are known to have a much higher rate of suicide than the rest of the first responders and police come in second at that. That's a good question and I do believe that they are also very much underreported well right.

Audio: Dr. Schulz: Interesting, thank you.

Audio: Michelle: No problem it's a really great question.

Visual: Slide changes to “Economics of Mental Health, Addiction, & Suicide Among First Responders” and includes a list of statistics.

Audio: Michelle: So, basically, I was sort of just mentioning about the economics of this and the impact that it has on the impact that mental health has on the economic aspects. If we look at time into health crisis and first responders like the numbers, we can see speak for themselves. Police officers are twice as likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder when they're involved in a shooting. And in Canada we have approximately 70,000, first responders and veterans which 42.5% have experienced some form of PTSD. Forty-two-point five, I mean that's just huge that's just a huge number. And then other shocking statistics include a study with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that their RCMP are Canadian police service in which 44.5% out of a population of five thousand eight hundred and thirteen participants were found to screen positively for serious mental health issues ranging from anxiety and depression to PTSD and operational stress injury.

So, with mental health or mental illness and in the Canadian labor force resulting in the productivity loss of over 21 billion, which is just huge, it's imperative that we look at how we mitigate and minimize these costs by implementing the resources that speak to the needs.

Visual: Slide changes to include more statistical data on the “Economics of Mental Health, Addiction, & Suicide Among First Responders.”

Audio: Michelle: We touched briefly on the exorbitant cost from the loss of productivity, at work as a result of mental health issue. And policing is one of the top five occupations at sorry policing is one of the top five occupations our work placed on compensation has allowed for claims of operational stress injury and PTSD in the last five years. According to our presumptive legislation which is probably unique to us that, means it's expected that the traumas were exposed to may lead to such mental health illnesses. Of course, paramedics as you mentioned Dr. Schultz are much higher in this area and they also are part of this group. The great news is as a result it means that we're going to be cared for in our time of need. Now this is only an Ontario believe it or not the presumptive legislation I'm not familiar with the other provinces in Canada I know that Quebec does not have this presumptive legislation.

These same mental health illnesses that are so common in our profession as I mentioned were to times more likely to incur them also contribute significantly to physical illness increased health care costs and early mortality. And of course, I don't think I need to explain about how the physical healthcare would be impacted and losing a parent or a family member is also from even just from an economical perspective it is very impactful.

So, these health care costs are five times greater when we're treating a first responder with PTSD than one without PTSD. So, it's easy to see how scientifically based interventions and resources are worth their financial investment.

Visual: Slide changes to “Applying Knowledge & Skills to Enact Positive Social Change” and includes a list of how Walden University supports enacting positive social change.

Audio: Michelle: So how might you ask has Walden University's application of knowledge and skills enacted positive social change in this area. So, for me it's a multitude of aspects including coursework such as advanced research design and methods, and program evaluation, growing my skills and researching gaps and effective solutions to fill those gaps from program development to supporting the implementation of effective resources. Other skill sets that I have supported my ability to enact positive social change are literature research, needs analysis, data analysis, and critical thinking which have increased my confidence in all of these areas. And what's wonderful about this is those skills have allowed me to take the information you see on the left side of the slide and transition that information into identifiable gaps in service. In this particular case, that's first responders, we have limited affordable services and treatment options there's a lack of dialogue and information exchange amongst support groups leading to the isolation of research treatment and prevention that are not shared for improved outcome. And the most important gap that I've noticed and that I know most of us have noticed in this field is that we have no safe physical place for our first responders experiencing crisis the mental health specifically mental health crisis.

Visual: Slide changes to “The Haven” and includes the aspects of The Haven, and a website link.

Audio: Michelle: So, my solution for this gap is the Haven and the Haven is Ontario's proposed first nonprofit mental health and wellness treatment center for responders. And it's under the umbrella of Quebec very successful it's called La Vigile. And the Haven will provide occupational specific leading-edge medically supervised mental health care as well as preventative wellness which will significantly reduce cost in in time off work as a result of occupational stress injuries. And it will also provide respite care for anniversaries of critical incidents that people might have experienced where they might need that extra mental health support.

Visual: Slide changes to “The Haven” and includes an operational chart.

Audio: Michelle: So, here's an operational chart of how the Haven will provide services and you can have a look at this. You can see on the left-hand side we have internal which would be inpatient programs and resources they're able to stay as long as they want for and work on whatever they would like to work on it is very customized and occupational specific with the cultural pieces in mind of our first responders. And on the right-hand side you can see the external and outpatient programming that's available which is just as fantastic all provided by very specialized service providers in that who are trained in trauma.

Visual: Slide changes to “The Haven” and includes the goals of the center.

Audio: Michelle: So, on a final note, it's our goal to obtain some government assisted funding for this occupational specific mental health treatment center exclusive to first responders and uniformed personnel. Which I personally believe will improve staff satisfaction and morale as it will make our first responders feel valued by their organizations as they endorse this endeavor. And it will reduce productivity loss and performance related issues that can cost from a liability perspective. And it will reduce PTSD and suicides. The Haven will overcome barriers to timely success; that's huge timely success is something we're weightless and whatnot when people are in crisis especially first responders they need that care immediately. So, it'll overcome the time barriers to access the care promoting the best practice excellent.

And I think the final thought that I really want to leave everybody with is as first responders it's our job to help you and our communities we aren't supposed to need this of ourselves. So, support us and making sure that we are well enough to help you.

Visual: Slide changes to “Applying Knowledge & Skills to a Real-World Tragedy” and includes details about a real experience from the presenter.

Audio: Michael: Yes, thank you very much Michelle I appreciate it so now I'm going to talk real quick about applying our key skills to a real-world tragedy. A little more than one year ago on October 1st of 2017, a gunman opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay on to a group of concert goers approximately 22,00, people who were attending this concert across the street and an outdoor open-air venue. And he had a direct line of sight into the crowd. That tragic incident left 58 dead and more than 800 people injured. This was on a Sunday night approximately o'clock at night so by the time everyone woke up the next morning on October 2nd all the chaos and media coverage just kind of caused, as you can imagine, a whirlwind. That shooting resulted in the deadliest mass shooting committed by an individual in the entire United States in modern time.

So, on the morning of October 2nd I received a call as part of the trauma intervention support team and we had to respond to the command center at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. And one of the reasons I got called is as a first sergeant in the military, I've always enjoyed counseling and helping others, so I got certified as a trauma intervention counselor for the city. And so there was a small group of us that was called to lend support to those that were also on site.

So, the initial thought process when this all kicked off as you can imagine was one of just again just utter chaos, confusion, worry fear, stress, and so we had to deal with all of that and just even trying to wrap our hands around how to initially start. What I can tell you is during that initial crisis response I was able to use my knowledge and skills that I had from previous experiences, but same knowledge and skills that were honed and fine-tuned as a result of going through the Walden doctoral program in I/O psychology. And then also I was able to apply the principles of service to others before self and helping to make a positive social impact at such a chaotic time.

Visual: Slide changes to include the stages of providing trauma counseling support services and includes

  • Stage 1- Victims and their families and friends
  • Stage 2- First Responders
  • Stage 3- Local Community

Audio: Michael: So, as we were going through this whole chain of events and providing the counseling support services, there was three stages that we went through. The very first stage and response and providing counseling and comfort was to the victims and their families and friends. Now a good majority of people actually drove into that concert this huge outdoor concert from the surrounding states of California, Arizona, and Utah. As you can imagine they were totally lost and didn't know what to do or trying to find their loved ones, and so we had to assist in getting them to the right place and the right point and in touch with the right people so they could be reconnected with their families. And again, with that influx of people it was really hard for everyone to find a place to stay so we assisted that with that through the hotels and local outreach centers to try and take care of that to while we were doing the counseling.

The second stage, and this was probably the most difficult for me, was to provide that trauma counseling to the first responders. So during that time again with the first responders when they were going through stage one you know and Michelle just kind of talked about this they were just so focused on the mission of helping and serving and getting that critical care on that initial triage, getting people to the hospital, but they really didn't even have time to take in what was going on what was happening and what they were doing. So once the initial several days settled down and we started dealing with them, that's when the importance of having things available like the group down a part of life the Haven that Michelle mentioned that just really brought the importance to light of what the first-responders go through. It was kind of the same thing in the military. They were busy that they didn't even have time to address themselves-- once we got that done we started dealing with that again.  That was probably the most difficult thing for me.

And then the final stage was -- sorry I lost my screen.   Was dealing with the local community.  As you can imagine with all the chaos intention right because of Las Vegas. -- You always think it happens to somebody else, thank goodness it didn't happen here.  Just that whole thought process, when it does happen, and you need to respond, it takes back the community, even people that were not necessarily there, did not know anyone there, but we even had to deal with the local community, mostly working with churches and organizations to reach out and help with the counseling services.  To give people the reassurance that it would be okay.

Visual: Slide changes to “Applying Knowledge & Skills to a Real-World Tragedy” and includes a list of positive social change impact and results, and knowledge and skills gained from Walden.

Audio: Michael: How does this correlate to what we do in terms of being scholar practitioners with Walden?  It definitely resulted in positive social change impact with the trauma intervention support.  I cannot tell you how much thanks for God, how many tears we shared and hugs, that is what it means at the end of the day, I can't even put words onto what the scene was like.  But when you can do that, that is what makes it worthwhile.  So, some of the bullet points, the victims, family and friends were comforted, the community offered support.  Everyone banded together to get food, pillows, water.  And there were new nonprofit organizations formed in the value for things just like this.

What skills did I learn in the PhD program and the dissertation process with Walden University?  I was able to fine tune the skills of coaching specifically for the scenario.  What I mean by that is assessing what we were supposed to do and staying focused on that particular objective.  Ethics and standards, when you are counseling and coaching, there are certain ethics and standards that apply to the way you do that and handle yourself.  And the way you conduct business.  We were briefed initially by the FBI and local law enforcement.  When we were talking to them, not to discuss the case, anything we knew about it, what we saw in the news, not to speculate, so from that perspective we had some marching orders just to stick with what we were there to do and focus on helping people. 

The last two, the critical thinking and organization prioritization and task management, that was the biggest thing because we did not have a lot of time to hit the ground and start comforting and helping people.  It was almost on-the-fly and I correlate that with the dissertation process where you are going to coursework, everything is paced and scheduled for you.  In the dissertation it is a different animal coming up to stay on your game, keep your priorities straight.  Keep an eye on your time, and so from that aspect it was similar to that, very much crunch time, not a lot of time to think, it had to be done on your toes.  Even though I had that experience before, the experience of going to the dissertation process amplified it many times over.

Visual: Closing credits.

Audio: Instrumental music.