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Peer Support Questions – Do You Have the Answers?

Date:Sunday July 25, 2021

Peer support is a trendy topic for most first responder communities and in the mental health and wellness genre, with many people talking about how important it is. For example, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (I.A.C.P) and the Fraternal Order of Police (F.O.P) both agree that having a peer support team is best practices for the first responder community and their mental health; but what does that mean and will just any old team do?

How are Peer Support Teams Formed?

For many agencies, it is taking some officers who have been involved in a or some critical incidents and calling them a peer support team as if simply having been involved in a critical incident prepares them to peer someone else who has. While that may be a good start, many other factors need to be considered. Simply stating you have a peer support team to check off a box does not make it effective or helpful.

Important Questions for Peer Support Teams to Reflect On

Good leaders must continually reevaluate their teams by asking the following questions. Does your team regularly work with their mental health clinician or multiple clinicians and chaplains? Does your mental health clinician specialize in treating trauma and utilize Eye Movement Desensitization as a treatment modality? Are your team members healed from any incidents they have been involved in or, if not recovered, actively working on themselves? Are they effective in your department?  Have they been trained in basic critical incident stress management? Are they involved in continuous mental health training to become better peers? Does your department utilize them? Do your department’s employees know who your team members are and how to get in touch with them? Are they respected within the department? Are they a cohesive team that works together when I.T. hits the fan, and are they continually following up with those who have been struggling? Are there lapses in confidentiality and rumors circulating about things that should not be repeated? Do they know who the local, state, and national resources that assist physically, and mentally unwell officers are?  Have they vetted them? Does your peer support team know when they themselves need help?

A partnership with a neighboring or state peer support team is essential. When your team members and the entire agency are involved in a large-scale critical incident, another peer support team is needed to facilitate the healing process until your team members are ready to start peering again.

If the answer to any of these questions is no, please work to make your team better. The health and wellness of your department depend on it.

Cathy and Javier Bustos

Founders, That Peer Support Couple, LLC, Texas Fraternal Order of Police Wellness Committee Members, Warrior's Rest Foundation Instructors

As That Peer Support Couple, Cathy & Javier Bustos are certified in First Responder Peer Support. They are retired police officers with four decades of experience. They both were involved...

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