Ministry’s EAP Helps Develop Peer Support Group for Area Law Enforcement Agencies

On the job stress comes in many forms.

Sometimes it’s the pressure of doing your job well in less than ideal circumstances while other times it can be the normal pressures of life impacting your performance.

For those in Law Enforcement, the duty call of “to serve and protect” can be very complicated and exposure to stressful and traumatic events can have a lasting effect.

As part of a community based effort, Ministry’s Associated Employee Assistance Services (AEAS) is helping to develop the Marathon Area Support Team (MAST), a peer support program for law enforcement agencies in central Wisconsin.

“Law enforcement is a stressful environment and one of the most difficult things for officers to do is ask for help,” said Robert Wilcox, Domestic Violence Officer for the Wausau Police Department. “We hope this peer support approach provides mentors to those going through tough times personally or professionally.”

While peer support has been in place on a variety of levels for law enforcement personnel in central Wisconsin, this new effort is designed to provide additional training to create a resource for officers or staff that may be unwilling to come forward in a group setting.

Gary Yeast, BA, MS, MS, LMFT, who specializes in Traumatology for Ministry AEAS,  recently began implementation of peer support training in Marathon County by leading a day long training session with members representing the Everest Metro, Kronenwetter and Wausau Police departments as well as Marathon County Sherriff’s Department and Wisconsin Department of Justice.

“The evolution of crisis care and response for emergency personnel has replaced the traditional “Critical Incident Stress Management/Debriefing model to become Psychological First Aid,” said Yeast.

Yeast adds that Psychological First Aid is an approach used to reduce stress caused by a traumatic event, normalize reactions, help people cope, adapt and recover, and prevent long-term consequences.

The training session also covered the continuum of stress with a focus on addressing compassion fatigue and preventing burnout.  “Compassion fatigue is the emotional residue from exposure to working with people who are suffering, particularly those hurting from the consequence of traumatic events,” said Yeast.

Yeast adds that Additional sessions are planned in the future.

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