Every day, emergency responders face tragedies many others don’t see.
As a Puyallup police seargant, Terry Young has seen his fair share of them.
“We’ve gone through a lot of tragedies and horrific events,” said Young, whose been in law enforcement for 17 years. “We see a lot of bad things people don’t know about.”
We’ve gone through a lot of tragedies and horrific events. We see a lot of bad things people don’t know about.
Terry Young, Puyallup police sergeant
Over time, witnessing those tragedies can take its toll on some first responders. That’s why the Puyallup Police Foundation partnered with the Behind the Badge Foundation to bring Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) training to Puyallup last week. The training is intended to help first responders cope in healthy ways with what they experience at work.
“We recognize a need for this type of training,” Young said.
Young helped launch the Puyallup Police Foundation in 2009 after a series of tragedies took the lives of several servicemen and women. Now, the foundation is a nonprofit charity that supports “law enforcement officers and their families in times of tragedy or great distress.”
The three-day CISM training course was held at the Best Western Hotel in Puyallup and led by training specialist and Richland police captain Michael Cobb on behalf of Behind the Badge Foundation, which brings support to families and communities after an officer has died or been seriously injured in the line of duty.
“We see more suffering, misery and human tragedy than most people do in their lifetimes,” Cobb said. “Taking care of our (first responders) means we can take better care of our communities.”
We see more suffering, misery and human tragedy than most people do in their lifetimes. Taking care of our (first responders) means we can take better care of our communities.
Michael Cobb, CISM training instructor and Richland police captain
Cobb has instructed the classes with his wife, a traumatologist, since 1993. While there are many CISM training classes for law enforcement, there are also classes for those who work in education, air travel or other potential high-stress jobs.
Gayle Frink-Schulz, services director for Behind the Badge Foundation, said last week’s course filled up almost immediately, with departments from all over the state, including 911 dispatchers and fire departments.
The training also involved a family component, allowing first responders to bring along spouses or family members so they can better understand how to bring healthy coping methods back home.
Young’s wife, Salina, came with her husband to the training for the first time.
“It took me 17 years to get here,” Salina said. “But I want to be here to help others.”
It’s not easy being married to someone in law enforcement, Cobb said. It requires a lot of balance, communication and understanding, which he discusses during the training.
We have selected to be those people who go help (in emergencies). But it can take a toll on our families. There are a lot of different strategies we can use (for help).
“We have selected to be those people who go help (in emergencies),” Cobb said. “But it can take a toll on our families. There are a lot of different strategies we can use (for help).”
At home, Terry and Salina said they balance nutrition and follow exercise techniques, as well as have a strong faith.
A big part of the training is recognizing that emergency responders are human beings first and foremost, Frink-Schulz said. It’s important to acknowledge the feelings and experiences that come with the job.
Young has shared with others in law enforcement the positive impact the training can have when it comes to self care. It helps just knowing there’s a network of support.
“I’ve been able to take this training to the field to help others,” Young said. “We’re here, first of all, to help officers and families during crisis.”