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Welcome to our blog! You can visit this page to check our announcements on recent training schedules, get some tips on staying mentally healthy, and more.

Minneapolis Police Federation Charities, Inc. Golf Tournament

posted Jul 1, 2013, 10:42 AM by S. Wickelgren

LE-AST Services/Counseling Sponsors Minneapolis Police Federation Charities, Inc. Golf Tournament

Minneapolis Police Federation Charities, Inc. is a proud supporter of many charitable causes. Just recently, the Federation held the 5th Annual Golf Tournament to raise funds for various causes and other charitable organizations. The event was held at Majestic Oaks Golf Course in Ham Lake, MN on June 24, 2013.

LE-AST Services/Counseling was a proud sponsor of this event.

When is the optimal time to read "Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement" by Kevin Gilmartin

posted Mar 26, 2013, 8:43 AM by S. Wickelgren

For those of you familiar with the book - Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement, by Kevin Gilmartin, you know that his theories ring true to many/most/all working in the field.  At what point does it help to read this book?  At what point is it too late for it do be a benefit to an officer?

The first question is not a good one in that I realize that it can do no harm to read his book early in your career in law enforcement, or even while in college or in the academy.  I do believe that much like learning to walk or riding a bike, we will all make mistakes and learn from these mistakes.  This will ring true in a career of law enforcement regarding handling stress.  Knowledge is great, but experience is the life skill needed to grow.  I have thrown out the analogy of a mythical person who attends college straight through to getting a PhD in building searches.  This person can have all of the knowledge on how to properly conduct a building search.  They will know how to do it efficiently, safely, quickly..., but the fact is that on that first real building search, their stress levels will be through the roof and interfere with their ability to "think" through what they need to do.  They need experience in order to incorporate their knowledge.  The two questions above still stand.  I will say reading this valuable book is a must before, or early in a career, and then again some time later.  When that is..., that is the question.

Steven M Wickelgren
 

Distracted Driving on the Rise

posted Mar 26, 2013, 8:41 AM by S. Wickelgren

Sending an email, writing a grocery list, texting or talking on mobile phones, picking up a dropped item, or practically doing anything while on the wheels lead to negligent driving. These activities take the driver’s focus away from the roadway, which eventually leads to distracted driving accidents.

Distracted driving is known as the number one killer among teenagers, according to the study conducted by Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, State Farm Insurance Study and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Other related studies show that more than 1 million people have died due to car accidents over the past 25 years, and in 2010 alone, more than 30,000 were claimed by road crashes. These figures are very alarming especially to our Law Enforcement Officers, who are responsible for actively targeting these negligent drivers to lessen car crash incidence.

The US Department of Transportation has been conducting a yearly summit to strengthen the efforts of law enforcement officers in banning texting and cellphone use while driving. But above this, drivers themselves must be responsible and extra cautious with their actions while they are on the wheels.

Here are some reminders for our motorists:
  • Turn off electronic devices. Studies have shown that electronic devices are the number one cause of distraction to drivers. Turning it off before driving is highly advised as not to be tempted to use it. Stop or drop by a safe place if you really need to talk on the phone or read a text message
  • Plan your route. It is wise to first read and be familiar with your road map before going to your destination. Checking the traffic conditions also helps you avoid busy streets, thus reducing stress.
  • Give attention to your kids or pets beforehand. Kids can be a distraction in driving. It is better to prepare them for the trip by giving them entertainment that could catch their attention. That way, you can avoid being distracted by them while you are in the middle of the street.
  • Remember that your car isn’t your dressing room. Dress well and comfortably before sitting in the driver’s seat. Putting on makeup, contact lenses, or fixing yourself while manning the car can take away your attention.
  • Say “No” to multi- tasking. Multi- tasking is good but definitely not while driving. This is the most important reminder that drivers must observe. When driving, your brain must be 100% focused on the road and your driving behavior must be activated.
Remember that distracted driving does not only put yourself in danger but also the other people on the road. Practicing responsible driving behavior is a must if we want to help reduce accidents and deaths due to negligent driving.

Mental Illness - Is Medication the Answer?

posted Oct 26, 2012, 8:58 AM by S. Wickelgren

Medication -- that is the usual answer when the topic is about treating a mentally ill person. This appears true to some cases but sadly, this alone can not cure the illness.

Medication is undeniably considered a major treatment for any illness, mental health cases included. But medicines like anything else always come with a consequence. That is why healing naturally is still preferred over medication. In fact, most doctors use a simple principle in prescribing medications, that is – give medicines if the desired effect outweighs the adverse reactions. 

In mental health, admitting that you are mentally ill is a big challenge and that alone can greatly affect the process of taking medications. This may lead to unwanted events such as forcing a diagnosed person to take medication. Then there are cases of not being able to control and monitor the medication process leading to missed doses and even stoppage of taking the medicine. Taking, stopping and starting a medication again is not a good pattern. It is a mortal sin in the principles of medication administration. It is much better not to take the medication at all than having this pattern.

To complete the treatment plan for a mentally ill individual, the following must be present:
  • Safe Environment – Since uncontrolled anxiety is the major cause of the illness, a stress-free environment is highly recommended. The environment must also be free from anything that may cause the patients further harm. Dangerous, pointed or sharp objects and edges must kept away from the vicinity.
  • Therapeutic Communication – As simple as being able to express oneself is very effective and helpful for patients suffering from mental health problems. Communication is as important as medication. It can help in restoring a person’s self esteem and morale. The health care team that manages a mental case must master the art of therapeutic communication. Listening and talking to patients therapeutically can help in the analysis of their thoughts and direct their bizarre thoughts to match reality.
  • Community/Support Group – Making them feel normal creates a big impact to the lives of mentally ill individuals. They are suffering from the community’s rejection, so giving them the feeling of belongingness is definitely a big factor that could help in their recovery.
In addition to specific treatment plans for every mental health case, these treatment modalities presented are important in ensuring that a patient receives a holistic approach to their treatment plan. Curing mental illness needs more than just medications. It is about having an integrated and solid plan of actions to ensure a fast recovery.

Mental Illness is a not a Crime but a Disability!

posted Oct 12, 2012, 7:27 AM by S. Wickelgren   [ updated Oct 28, 2012, 7:55 PM ]

Mentally ill individuals are not criminals. They are victims and sufferers of an illness who need an open-minded community to embrace and help them recover and escape from the dark room of insanity.

Police officers are part of the front lines of the mental health care team. This places a huge responsibility on these officers because skills like proper training, education about illnesses, and understanding those with mental disabilities must be possessed in order for them to deal with clients effectively.

Ideally, police officers must not be the first person to handle mentally ill clients. They can be partners but not necessarily the first response. We have medical professionals specializing in mental health who are trained to deal with mentally ill individuals. They know what these people are going through, how they behave, and how to handle them.

The following points may mislead us from how we view and deal with the mentally ill clients:

  • Mentally ill people are considered harmful and criminals. This notion creates fear in us in facing mentally ill individuals. However, we should also think that not all of them need to be isolated from the community. Some of them suffer from depression and need a solid support group to help them gain energy and fight against their depression.
  • The community lacks understanding of the illness. We tend to put a barrier between us and the mentally ill individual without even knowing what is happening. We don’t even understand their illness and the reasons for their suffering. We are simply creating hasty generalization, but the truth is that most of them are harmless, especially those who are depressed. You may need extra precautions when you are dealing with paranoid and aggressive clients.
  • Lack of mental health care officers to handle the cases. A lot of mental health professionals are experts in dealing with clients suffering from mental illness. Psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors, and nurses have specialized training in doing these tasks that can surely help in the intervention and prevention process.
Mentally ill patients already have too much to deal with from their situations. Instead of showing them acts of rejection, why not embrace them as a normal person and deal with them as if nothing were wrong? It doesn't take very much from you to choose to help.
   

Reversing PTSD among Police Officers

posted Oct 1, 2012, 10:49 AM by S. Wickelgren   [ updated Oct 30, 2012, 10:53 PM by Mark Wickelgren ]

Our way of living is affected by many stressors around us. This is one measure of our emotional strength and maturity. If you’re emotionally unprepared and easily give in to the pressures of life, anxiety will easily pull you down!

Think of a police officer who has witnessed or handled crimes that involved death of a citizen or potential colleague. If the police officer is mentally and emotionally weak, they may develop a serious anxiety disorder. That is why police mental health should be given proper attention to prepare police officers both emotionally and mentally.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious anxiety disorder that usually occurs in individuals who experienced a traumatic event involving a threat to their life. It may result from moral damages or death resulting from war, disaster, assault, battery, and similar events. Police and military officers, especially those involved in wars, are more prone to develop this disorder.

Post-traumatic stress disorder especially among police officers is not a normal condition. At first, one might be able to handle it by trying to suppress the feelings until they reach the point of giving up. PTSD is a reversible condition provided the individual seeks professional help as early as possible.

When is the right time to seek medical advice or see a police therapist? Use this guide to know:
  • Disturbance in performance of daily routines. You can’t move on obviously. You keep on reliving the experience because you haven’t vented out your feelings and you were not able to overcome your anxiety. Nightmares, episodes of flashbacks, and over-reacting to similar events are some of the obvious manifestations.
  • Feelings of weakness and avoidance. You are suppressing your feelings and avoiding talking about it. You may also want to be alone and detach yourself from the people around you. You feel that you don’t have a future anymore.
  • Loss of concentration. You may experience difficulty concentrating on things that you usually do. You are starting to panic and startle easily especially when you see things that remind you of the experience. You are also becoming hyper vigilant, irritable, and have difficulty falling asleep.
  • You may also feel “survivor’s guilt.” The most common physical signs and symptoms of which are dizziness and headaches, fainting, palpitations, increased heart rate, agitation, or a feeling of uneasiness.
Everyone has different ways of handling stress and trauma. Some police officers have stronger coping mechanisms and more stable emotions to easily handle this kind of condition, but others may not. Conducting psychological training focusing on the emotional strength and maturity of police officers is essential especially in their line of work.

But when you feel like there is a problem, don’t hold back – seek a mental health professional's help!

Critical Incident Stress Management in the Workplace

posted Sep 21, 2012, 10:00 AM by S. Wickelgren   [ updated Oct 30, 2012, 11:37 PM by Mark Wickelgren ]

Tragedies happen anywhere and everywhere. They strike unknowingly in the most unexpected places. The workplace is no exception, thus creating stress and even trauma to employees.

Critical incident stress management is a program created to help workers deal with normal physiological and psychological reactions that may result from sudden, overwhelming, or life threatening situations. Employees who have witnessed a critical incident may portray stress-related and productivity problems. The checklist of manifestations listed below can help you check if your employees need an intervention:
  • paranoia
  • feelings of uneasyness or anxiousness
  • restlessness
  • vigilance
  • concentration problems
  • fatigue
  • phobias of dreaded areas
  • changes in mood
  • sleep disturbances 
Critical incident stress management is a series of comprehensive techniques that primarily aim to reduce the unnecessary effects of a traumatic event to workers. The strategies include the following steps:
  • Demobilization. This comes immediately after the critical incident wherein it maximizes the rest, information, and time out method (RIT). This is usually done by a supervisor, manager or any authorized person of the company who is not involved with the critical incident. Gathering them all together and keeping them calm immediately after the event is the major goal during this stage. It should take place during the first minutes after the incident.
  • Defusing. Defusing is also known as immediate small group support that happens within 12 hours after the incident. A well-trained staff member will serve as a manager to help workers put a conclusion in the incident. This will allow workers to vent out their immediate responses and for you to provide immediate personal support. At this stage, you may also refer them to appropriate support agencies for further care.
  • Debriefing. This is preferably the last stage of the stress management program if clients respond well to the strategies. It is also known as a powerful event group support which takes place 3 to 7 days after the critical incident. During this time, workers are gathered, not for counseling, but for them to voluntarily share and discuss their thoughts about the critical event and put it into perspective. This will help them re-establish a recovery process.
  • Follow Up Support. This is needed for some workers, in order to look into other aspects of the event after the first debriefing session. This is also a good time to assess if recurrence of symptoms occurs.
A critical incident always causes stress to anyone involved. The event itself is the stressor! And when a stressor becomes extremely threatening, it produces a serious behavioral and cognitive interruption. Eventually, it might lead to a traumatic stress disorder. So, early intervention is essential to prevent the occurrence of a more serious problem.

Mastering Mental Health - A Springboard in Law Enforcement

posted Sep 13, 2012, 10:35 AM by S. Wickelgren   [ updated Nov 1, 2012, 2:39 PM by Mark Wickelgren ]

The recent data provided by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) says there are 450 million people suffering from mental illnesses all over the globe. The sad part is that these mentally ill individuals need to deal with the negative attitudes of the people around them. In fact, NAMI revealed that only 45% of Americans believe that those who suffer from mental illnesses can recover and become functional again.

A mentally ill person needs a very good source of support from his family, law enforcement officers, and the society. This is the key to a successful recovery from the illness. This must be the main goal of people caring and interacting with a mentally ill person. Like other people in the healthcare industry, law enforcement officers must also learn the psychology of mentally ill individuals as they are responsible for these individuals when they are under the custody of the police.

Here are some tips that might help a police officer in dealing with a mentally ill:
  • Learn about the illness. Most of us have a vague notion about mental illness and its attributes. As the primary contact of the mentally ill, you must know your limitations in order to maintain independence and self-reliance of the client. Remember, mental illness is a broad topic, and each type of mental illness has its own principles of caring for the client. Understanding the nature of the illness as well as the needs and limitations of the clients will surely help.
  • Respect the client as a person. Sometimes you tend to create a barrier between the mentally ill and yourself. That won’t help either of you. Respecting the feelings of the mentally ill individual and treating them as a normal person is a gesture of respect as well as your professionalism as a police officer.
  • Master the art of therapeutic communication. Medically speaking, therapeutic communication is the complement of therapeutic drugs in helping mentally ill clients. There should be an open line of communication between you, the family members and other healthcare providers. Acknowledge the feelings of the client, let him express his emotions and respond to him with optimism.
  • Understand the recovery process. Mental illness takes a long time to be resolved. It’s not a linear process of recovery. Instead, it is like a curve that sometimes relapses. Understand the client and be supportive to whatever progress he displays. Never try to rush the recovery process.

Mastering these principles in dealing with mentally ill clients can help you have a smooth process in law enforcement. It’s all about using yourself and your interpersonal skills to gain the trust of the individuals under your care. Use your power as a human being and become a top notch law enforcement officer!

Mental Health Disorder: What Do You Know About It?

posted Sep 4, 2012, 9:00 AM by S. Wickelgren   [ updated Nov 1, 2012, 2:57 PM by Mark Wickelgren ]

According to the Discovery Channel, the more prevalent illness in developed countries like The United States is not cardiovascular disease or cancer but mental illness. Surprising…. With so many things to cope with in everyday life, some people end up having an impaired mental health status. They have a problem dealing with their thoughts, emotions, or behaviors that may be brought about by social, psychological, biological, and traumatic factors.

In the United States alone, 22.1% of Americans 18 years old and above or about 1 in 5 adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. Mental health disorders can affect anyone, male or female, young or old. Awareness of different mental disorders, therefore, is very important so you understand and help other people who may be suffering from this.

Here are some of the most common mental disorders:
  • Mood Disorders. Mood disorder is a general term for a group of disorders characterized by periods of depression which vary from one another in terms of prognosis, symptoms and treatments. The four basic types of mood depression are major depression, cyclothymia, SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and mania. Major depression is the most common kind of mood disorder. It is characterized by feelings of sadness, anger or frustration that affects a person’s everyday life for weeks or longer. Treatment of major depression includes antidepressant medications and psychotherapy. Joining a support group is also one way of helping people with major depression.
  • Personality Disorders. Each of us is unique. Human beings have different traits or personalities which may be influenced by the environment, experiences, behaviors, and mindsets. People with personality disorders have impaired function in their ability to adapt or react to what is happening to them. They have a rigid and unhealthy pattern of behaving and thinking about a given situation. The most common personality disorders are antisocial personality disorders, avoidant personality disorders and borderline personality disorders. Those who have antisocial personality disorders have persistent disregard and violation of the rights of others, rules, regulations, and laws. Avoidant personality disorder is characterized by a lifelong pattern of extreme social inhibition, shyness, feelings of inadequacy, feelings of rejection, and sensitivity to negative criticism. A person suffering from borderline personality disorder experiences a repetitive pattern of instability in self-image, impulsiveness, disorganization, significant mood instability, and suicidal attempts. There are certain treatments and different approaches to deal with personality disorders, but psychotherapy is still the main way to manage patients with this kind of mental disorder.
  • Eating Disorders. Eating disorders are characterized by abnormal eating habits that can threaten your health and life, which includes anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating. A person with anorexia weighs less than 85% of his or her ideal body weight. Anorexics have a distorted body image, extreme thinness, intense fear of gaining weight and believe that they are fat even when they are dangerously thin. They usually restrict their eating to the point of starvation. Bulimics may secretly binge or eat large amount of foods and try to purge or get rid the foods that they have eaten in an unhealthy manner. Binge eating disorder is also characterized by eating a large amount of food, but it isn’t followed by any purging. They lose control over their eating that they sometimes still want to eat even though they are not hungry anymore. People with binge eating disorder are usually obese and at risk for cardiovascular disorder. Psychotherapy or talk therapy, adequate nutrition and certain medications are effective treatment for eating disorders.
Mental health disorders are very prevalent but can be treated. If proper management is considered, people afflicted with mental health disorders can be saved from this nightmare and live a healthier and more harmonious life. Support from family and friends is very important to address the needs of people with this kind of disorder. Experts such as mental health professionals, psychologists, and psychiatrists play a very important role to bring back the person’s mental health.

How To Tell If You Are Stressed Out

posted Aug 28, 2012, 8:35 PM by S. Wickelgren   [ updated Nov 1, 2012, 3:25 PM by Mark Wickelgren ]

Stress has become an ordinary part of our lives. One will always encounter pressures and demands in life brought about by a job, family, and even the community. Stress has become such a great concern in the workplace as more and more people claim to experience it as a result of work overload or conflicts within the organization.

Basically, stress is a normal response from the body to environmental pressures. It can bring out the best from someone who can respond to it positively or it may lead to a distressed life when taken negatively. There are a lot of tips and ideas used to manage stress effectively. But, how will you know if you are already stressed out?

Here are some of the assessments to bear in mind:
  • Physical manifestations. Stress can affect the body in many ways. It can affect almost all systems of the body. According to an American Psychological Association research, 77% of people regularly experience physical symptoms of stress. The most common signs and symptoms of stress include: increased heart rate and respiratory rate, feeling of tiredness most of the time, experiencing aches or pains in any part of the body, increased blood pressure, frequent cold and decreased libido, etc. If you have experienced some of these physical signs and symptoms, take it as a warning that you are stressed. These physical changes can eventually lead to different kinds of diseases.  It is a must that you are aware of the physical manifestations of stress so you can address it effectively and prevent the problem from worsening. Ask for medical help to be certain of your health condition. As the saying goes, “prevention is better than cure.”
  • Emotional manifestations. Moodiness, irritability, short-temper, inability to relax, sense of loneliness, feelings of depression, worrying, feeling anxious, feelings of helplessness, and out of control are some of the emotional symptoms of stress. Your emotions greatly affect your health. Your body responds to how you feel and act. A weak emotional status may lead to different health problems such as high blood pressure or stomach ulcers. You don’t want that to happen, do you? It is very important to be aware of your feelings and emotions because if you continuously experience negative emotions, it may lead to certain diseases like cancer.
  • Behavioral manifestations. Do you often smoke, drink alcohol or use drugs to feel relaxed? Do you usually isolate yourself from others? Do you have trouble sleeping? Do you manifest nervous habits such as nail biting or pacing? If you answer yes to these questions, you are probably stressed out.
Being aware of the physical, emotional and behavioral signs and symptoms of stress can greatly help you manage it effectively. Most people have the ability to cope with stress but tend to apply the negative coping mechanisms. Knowing its signs and symptoms doesn't completely guarantee you living a stress-free life, though. You need the help of mental health professionals.

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