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Posts Tagged ‘traumatic stress’

Weaving Positive Meaning

June 2nd, 2013

Many of us tend to be meaning-seekers, wanting to be a positive influence in our world. Meaning is the fuel that keeps us going, what gives our life flavor, richness and purpose—what makes ourlife worth living.

What we pursue, how we invest our waking hours, what fills our dreams, even whether we have dreams at all, makes a critical difference in our quality of life and even our health.

And for many, many reasons (I am sure you can name a few!), corrections is the type of work that challenges staff deep and hard regarding the creation and maintenance of positive meaning. In the field of corrections, positive meaning does not grow freely on trees all on its own while you are sleeping. Rather, it requires persistent breaking of fallow ground, digging rocks out of the soil, fertilizing and watering, and pulling stubborn weeds that make a comeback seemingly overnight.  It also requires coming back and doing this again and again after periods of drought, heat waves, storms and freezing cold.

Creating positive meaning in corrections, and hanging on to it day after day and year after year, is nothing less than heroic. It requires learning to see courageously with new eyes. It requires to relentlessly keep sifting, looking for grains of gold in the mud of a river bed. For they are there, waiting to be found.

For many years now I have seen that staff flourish when they learn to infuse even routine or menial work with positive significance. These workers learn to not take themselves too seriously, to not fall in love with their image or power or what others think of them, and to do their job to the best of their ability on any given day.

The ones I’ve seen doing gloriously are those who have learned to find goodness and beauty, and to be thankful (and even grateful) for little things and big things and everything in between — even for things that do not look good and that are hard to be thankful for at first.  These are the ones who have also learned to forgive and to keep going after hard times.

So, how do you go about creating positive meaning for yourself?

Here are some suggestions.

  • Look for the beauty in the gift of every moment.
  • Tap into what inspires you to be the best you can be.
  • Remember the ones you are providing for by doing this work.
  • Actively contribute to the welfare of others and the common good.
  • Remember that you are afforded the opportunity to influence people’s lives, communities, and even generations to come through your work, choices and actions.
  • Relish the pursuit of acts of courage, civility and integrity.
  • Celebrate every shred of progress in yourself and others. (Ban Perfectionism!)
  • Aim to influence coworkers and offenders positively through your professionalism, integrity and ethics.
  • Model behaviors you want to see in others.
  • Seek input from others who have what you want.
  • Seek honest feedback from colleagues with whom you interact frequently.
  • Highlight success stories and share with others.
  • Point out to others the skillfulness required of corrections professionals of all disciplines. During the workday you and your colleagues may employ skills related to psychology, social work, public health, education, cheer-leading, motivational interviewing, mentoring, law enforcement and warfare.
  • Whenever you get discouraged at work, think of how far you’ve come in terms of your skill development regarding managing yourself and managing others.
  • Whenever you face your fears and stand your ground and do the right thing, give yourself credit for being courageous.
  • Whenever you persevere in the pursuit of your goals in spite of disappointments, you demonstrate your courage, grit and gumption.
  • Whenever you assist offenders within policy, you impact them positively.
  • Whenever you exercise self-control in the face of provocation, you are commendable, acting truly as a mature, wise adult.
  • Whenever you choose to see the silver lining in the cloud, you are winning the battle of the mind, remaining optimistic and in control of your attitude.
  • Whenever you support colleagues and help them do a better job, you offer them gifts of teamwork and caring, and you reinforce why you are an asset to your profession.
  • Whenever you choose to inspire, mentor, or otherwise encourage your colleagues, you contribute to the creation of a positive workplace climate, and you inject positive meaning in others’ lives.
  • Whenever you choose to take the high road after you encounter injustice—choosing to not return evil for evil, but to do the right thing —you win what may be the most important battle of all, the spiritual one.

So ask yourself:

  1. What do I want to accomplish through my life and influence, including my family life and my corrections employment?
  2. What do I want to be my predominant mood and attitude, the mood and attitude I am best known by?
  3. How can I impact people positively in my family and at my workplace on a daily basis?
  4. How can I create positive ripple effects in my community through my day-to-day actions?
  5. How might my work and my actions have a positive impact for generations to come?
  6. How can I best respond when I accomplish something that to me is significant and noteworthy, yet nobody commends me for it or nobody even notices?
  7. How do I “bounce back” from disappointment and bitterness when confronted with what, to me, seems to be injustice towards me or others?
  8. How can I “refuel”—go from becoming discouraged to being encouraged again (in-courage)? What can I tell myself to accomplish that? What actions can I take?
  9. How do I move past and even grow from my failures, my poor judgment and my mistakes, so that I can continue living out my most precious convictions, principles and values?
  10. What kind of life do I need to be pursuing intentionally today to feel like I am fully alive?

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Desert Waters’ PTSD Costs Estimator™

December 15th, 2012

Desert Waters’ PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) Costs EstimatorTM currently provides an estimate of costs to a corrections facility due to PTSD-related absenteeism, based on quantitative findings from the nationwide study of PTSD and health-related factors conducted by Desert Waters Correctional Outreach (DWCO). http://www.correctionsfatigue.com/images/PTSD_Prev_in_Corrections_2012.pdf Read more…

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Conclusions from DWCO’s 2010 & 2011 National Surveys

October 21st, 2011

In 2010 DWCO conducted a pilot online survey measuring PTSD rates in the corrections ranks. Results showed that 39% of our sample met criteria for PTSD for symptoms experienced over the past six months. Read more…

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Hazmat Suit for the Soul

December 23rd, 2010

The other day I heard someone say that as firefighters expect to see charred bodies on the job, correctional workers should expect to encounter violence at work, and consequently, should be prepared to deal with it and not be bothered by it.

The speaker made two points here: (1) that staff should be prepared to deal with workplace violence, and (2) that they should not be bothered by it.

These are two separate issues. Read more…

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Preventing PTSD

December 9th, 2010

In the last issue of the Correctional Oasis I wrote that administrators should consider routinely providing options for treatment to staff exposed to violent or life-threatening work-related incidents. Two studies in the field of traumatology support this suggestion. Both studies examined ways to lessen the long-term impact of traumatic exposure. The goal of the studies was to research how to keep people who suffer from Acute Stress Disorder from developing Posttraumatic Stress Disorder later on.

Let me first do a little explaining about these terms. Read more…

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Reducing Staff’s Cumulative Traumatic Impairment

November 23rd, 2010

Given the corrections culture of machismo and bravery, what do you think the response of a staff member would be if you asked them how they are doing being exposed to a critical incident at work?

My 10-year experience of working with correctional workers suggests that the vast majority of the time staff would reply, “I’m fine.” Read more…

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The Cost of PTSD

September 30th, 2010

Sadly, the corrections workplace is one of the “natural” environments for the development of PTSD. That is because correctional workers are exposed to incidents that are considered traumatic, as they may experience, witness, or are confronted with events that involve actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others.¹

Correctional workers are directly or indirectly exposed to violence, death, physical assaults, assaults with weapons, and threats of bodily harm or death, all of which are known to increase the likelihood that individuals exposed to such conditions will develop PTSD symptoms. Read more…

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Expanded Results of DWCO’s PTSD Survey

September 17th, 2010

In a prior post I presented some of the findings of Desert Waters’ groundbreaking survey of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms in the corrections ranks. They are repeated here, together with some additional results. The detailed report is still being written. We plan to have it posted on our website by the end of October 2010. Read more…

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“Shameful” Secret? Post-traumatic Symptoms in the Corrections Ranks

March 15th, 2010

The anecdotes presented below are used with permission. Some details are changed. If your own issues get triggered as a result of reading this, please see suggestions for help at the end of the article.

When I began talking and counseling with corrections personnel in the year 2000, I noticed that several of them suffered from post-traumatic symptoms. Some even exhibited full-blown PTSD, often self-medicated with alcohol.

I also noticed that, in the proud corrections culture, staff abhorred to admit that they had been negatively affected by traumatic work experiences. They’d often say, “I’m good. It was just an inmate.” But their eyes had the 2,000-yard stare. Read more…

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How Do You Train for This?

January 9th, 2010

The C.O. looked tough—what I lightheartedly like to call “the testosterone overload type”—and very professional. I knew he was a veteran who had seen it all during his 13-year corrections career—inmate murders, drug overdoses, beatings, stabbings, and staff assaults. What came out of his mouth though, and the tears that periodically welled up in his eyes, told a story that is rarely voiced.

As I sat listening to this warrior-like officer, I tried putting myself in his place. I ended up flooded with sorrow for the human condition, anger at evil, and a sense of urgency to be of assistance to this individual. Read more…

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