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Response to Duct Tape Isn’t Enough - 11/20/09

November 20th, 2009

(From Richard Lumb, Ph.D.)

My comments are a follow-up to Joe and Ron’s November 13, 2009 posting on the use and application of resilience tools to help moderate the impact of stress and the encounter with adversity or trauma that ranges from minor discomfort to mind and body wrenching crisis.  Daily pressure is inevitable and we often ride waves of discomfort with accompanying emotions usually returning to a place of balance where coping takes place naturally.  Days are filled with events that raise awareness of joy, contentment, sadness and on occasion elevate blood pressure, anxiety and other emotion response.  And then, there are those occasions where an unanticipated or escalating situation assaults our emotions with the force of a hammer blow and the immediate outcome shocks our mental, emotional, and physical well-being.  Hindsight allows us to consider how the situation might have been dealt with differently and that is especially true when we are transferring our beliefs and opinions to the actions of other people.  It is easy to judge someone when we were not directly involved, but the appropriateness of that judgment is questionable.  And then again, it might also provide insight of sufficient magnitude to bring about positive future change.

A poignant illustration, one that many of us can relate to, is the trauma of hearing that a colleague, friend or family member committed suicide.  To mask actual identity, John had worked for state corrections over thirty years.  Unassuming, dependable, steady in his demeanor and performance, he was liked by colleagues and supervisors who enjoyed working with him.  John changed one day.  His behavior became quieter and he seemed to have withdrawn as if mulling over a personal issue or problem.  His physical actions seemed stiff and he rarely engaged in conversation unless it pertained to job needs.  Calling in sick was rare in past years but it soon became noticeable by his supervisor and the level of discussion among his peers and supervisor was often to wonder “what is going on with John?”  As is often the case nothing was said to John as people assumed it was a temporary situation and he would work his way out of it.  He did not report for duty one day and the assumption was that he was sick and forgot to call in.  When he did not report the second day a call was placed but no answer resulted.  A physical check at his house found John the victim of suicide.  His wife of many years had left him and the anxiety turned to despondency and bolstered by alcohol resulted in John taking his own life.

Hindsight allows us to ask those “what if” questions that perhaps are more therapeutic than we realize.  Asking those questions and seeking a positive change in future outcomes is acceptable.  At Maine Resilience we often contemplate how awareness of resilience strategies might allow intervention by an individual, colleague or supervisor to motivate a change of direction that averts tragic outcomes?  The eleven resilience skills and attitudes posted in FOUNDATIONS on November 13th were defined as to meaning and each of them has a more in-depth application component that, if applied, offers a potential pathway out of the crisis, at least moderating the impact and effects of a demoralizing and debilitating event.  We struggle with the question, would this training have provided an alternative to both John and those who saw but did not act on his behalf to help?  We often avoid intrusion into someone’s life fearing resentment that it is not our business and the individual will work out of it on their own.  Waiting and watching for change may in fact be the wrong action.  With appropriate tools to draw on our deliberations to step in and help become easier.

Richard Lumb, Ph.D. is Associate Professor Emeritus and former Chair of the Department of Criminal Justice at the State University of New York at Brockport.  Lumb received his doctorate from Florida State University and his Master and Bachelor degrees from the University of Southern Maine.  Lumb’s academic career includes Chair and Program Director of Criminal Justice and Police Certification Training at Western Piedmont Community College, in Morganton, North Carolina; Associate Professor, Department of Criminal Justice at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte; Associate Professor and Graduate Coordinator, Department of Criminal Justice at Northern Michigan University; and Chair and Associate Professor, Department of Criminal Justice, State University of New York at Brockport.  He developed and managed the Institute for Leadership Development (ILD) at SUNY Brockport and was Co-Director of the Institute for Public Safety Policy Studies.

Lumb works with Maine Resilience developing and delivering resilience training to public safety agencies and other public/private organizations.  Maine Resilience collaborates with Alpha One, the American Red Cross, Cumberland County Emergency Management, University of Maine Augusta Center  for Professional Development, FEMA Region I, and Public Safety Planning, Policy & Research, LLC.  rclumb@gmail.com or 207-645-4924.

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