The Human Side of Healing: Navigating Overload and Embracing Resiliency
Dr. Jody Burnett is a Doctoral Counselling Psychologist who has been providing therapeutic mental health services to the general public and high performing individuals including first responders, physicians/allied health professionals and athletes for over the past 16 years. Jody has also worked extensively with the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Committee through initiatives such as Game Plan for Team Canada athletes and coaches. Jody has been the owner and operator of J. Burnett Consulting since 2005. The company has exhibited a strong history of research and evaluation within the health, education and culture sectors, providing service to both government and non-governmental organizations at the local, provincial and national levels. The company has been built on the strengths of multiple research associates with strong academic and research backgrounds, including mental health, educational and health psychology, First Nation and Metis health, youth engagement and community development as well as health program service evaluation.
Stan Ricci is a clinician who possesses 21 years of experience within the helping profession specializing in crisis and trauma work. He holds a BSW and a BA with double majors in Psychology and Philosophy. Throughout the duration of his career he has been registered, in good standing, through the SASW and has been employed with the Saskatchewan Health Authority as a Medical Social Worker. He has spent his entire career working with patients, families and professionals in the Emergency Department and Critical Care areas. He is a committed member of the RCMP’s CISM team providing mental health support and resiliency education to its members. In addition, he works privately as a mental health therapist providing individual counselling specializing in anxiety and loss. Stan’s focus on individual wellness and communal strength has been utilized in working with various first responder groups, individual professionals and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
Jody and Stan have worked together for over 20 years and have a combined 37 years of experience working with front line professionals, such as police, fire and emergency physicians. Their experience based knowledge and educational background has fostered a unique insight into the world of trauma and its adverse effects on those who bravely commit to the protection and safety of others.
The intent of the proposed workshop grew from years of experience working to support first responders and their families in a very ‘reactive’ system. Both Stan and Jody have worked tirelessly to support individuals who have been impacted by incurred occupational stress and trauma. In fact, emergency rescue personnel are considered a ‘high risk’ occupation group for health and mental health consequences resulting from work-related exposure to critical incidents (Piertrantoni & Prati, 2008). The impact, and potential effects, of stress related injuries within the helping professions unilaterally have been experienced by many individuals, especially within the first responder community.
First responder employers are noting a significant rise in mental health challenges. In North America, first responders are 10 times more likely to contemplate or complete suicide than the national average (Newman, 2015). Locally, Jody and Stan have been supporting families and staff that has recently lost loved ones to multiple suicides of first responders. This has resulted in questions regarding the maintenance of safety and health for those individuals who give selflessly for the health and safety of others. According to a release by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in 2018 “It is estimated that 30 percent of first responders develop behavioral health conditions.” In addition to the immeasurable cost of human life, employers are also trying to establish ways to manage the influx of mental health supports required by their staff. An estimated 70,000 first responders in Canada have experienced PTSD, and while the economic cost of PTSD specifically has not been established, estimates suggest that mental illness in the Canadian workforce results in productivity losses of up to 21 billion dollars each year (Wilson, Guliani & Boichev, 2016). Often times, employers are responding to the needs of their staff as a reactionary function of mental health support: reacting to a need rather than preemptively addressing it in a more proactive manner.
Helping first responders and front line workers to identify, establish and sustain resiliency has been identified in the literature as a ‘protective factor’ in preventing such mental health illnesses such as PTSD (Gunderson, Grill, Callahan & Marks, 2014).
To generate awareness and education on the strategies and perspectives required to establish a sustainable approach to developing and maintaining resiliency amongst first responders and front line health professionals. The teachings are based on a proactive approach that is working in unison with existing, more ‘reactionary’ supports and services used to mitigate the side effects of overload and stress related injuries. The goal is to instill a healthy approach to work/life balance and self-care amongst all members, from new recruits to established veterans. Likewise, education of senior leaders is essential to create a workplace that is informed and supportive of what is required for members to sustain the principles of resiliency over the long term. The right support at the right time is essential to the overall health of the individual and the organization as a whole.
The workshop would be disseminated to members in small groups of 25-30 people (although this number could be adjusted to suit). Typically, a full workshop would require an 8-hour day, however adjustments can be made to suit the length and breadth of the content for the organization if necessary. Take home materials and resources will be shared with each participant.
1.) What is ‘Overload’ and its Impact on Effective Practice
2.) Self-Assessment of Current Overload Status
3.) Understanding Illness and the Wellness Continuum
4.) Managing Expectations of Self
5.) Balancing Both Worlds (personal and professional identities)
6.) Healthy Practice vs. Performance Overload
7.) Improving the art of ‘Perspective’
8.) Understanding Practical Process and Application
To ensure long-term member and organizational resiliency, we propose to engage existing helping support staff within the organization, such as staff Psychologists, CISM team members, EFAP staff and the Chaplain. This approach will help to establish ‘leaders’ of resiliency within the organization to help promote key teachings. Jody and Stan will also be available for ongoing consultation to ensure uptake of the materials and mitigate any challenges that may arise with ongoing sustainability.
At present time, the workshop (in an 8 hour format) is available to the public for 495.00 + GST person. However, we will work to suit the needs of the organization and work within existing budgets as much as possible.
Email: Jody Burnett