Category Archives: 5- Blog posts

TAKING AN ACTIVE ROLE IN EMPLOYEE MENTAL HEALTH

TAKING AN ACTIVE ROLE IN EMPLOYEE MENTAL HEALTH

Taking an active role in employee mental health

By Bob Chrismas

Mental health challenges touch almost every Canadian. We all have a loved one or colleague dealing with mental health issues. One or more of your work colleagues, or employees are likely suffering, often in silence. Research finds over 20 per cent of workers have mental health challenges. Over 500,000 Canadians cannot work because of mental health issues.

Employers can only gain by helping to look after the mental health of their workforce. Improving employee mental health can reduce sick-time usage and increase productivity. Employers should consider what causes stress, support employee resilience, and have inclusive plans. We need to reduce ongoing stress, as well as crisis moments and trauma that can occur in any workplace.

What plans do you have in place for employee well-being if your workplace was to burn down or get robbed? How are you identifying causes of stress and employees’ response to it? We need to consider not only what occurs in the workplace but also the silent baggage that many carry to work. All these factors can affect the employee in the workplace. We now understand that in the past, we did far too little.

The signs and symptoms of stress and mental health issues are diverse. I will not even attempt to list them in this brief article. Money spent to assess and identify issues will have a high return on investment.

Some of the most obvious workplace stressors are also opportunities to improve. The first is showing we are aware and care. Promote mental health awareness. Assess resources and help employees understand and access them. Provide training for managers and front-line staff. Ask employees for input and show transparency in addressing their concerns. Sometimes we can reduce stress and improve morale at no more cost. It could be as simple as adjusting shift schedules or showing flexibility.

Identifying issues can sometimes be more difficult than it sounds. Employers can educate themselves on the common causes of stress. Develop processes to identify when staff is having difficulties. It could be as simple as well-being checks. Discuss decreased performance, increased complaints, or sick time usage. Sometimes there is a cause that we can fix.

Employees should know where they stand. Employers can improve this through open communication. Team meetings to highlight and raise awareness of processes and resources can help.

Management and employees should all be familiar with the process for post-traumatic events. They should know what to expect after a robbery or the death of a co-worker. It should not be only for drastic events.

I am reminded of a police psychologist who once said to me: Everyone experiences post-traumatic stress. Only some develop into full-blown disorders.

Employees also have a role to play in their own well-being. Management should remind them of the importance of relationships. Encourage them to practice mindfulness. Support and encourage physical health and resilient emotional well-being. Bringing in a yoga instructor or meditation leader for a lunch break can go a long way. Consider installing workout equipment and offering time to use it. We can remind employees about positive lifestyles, and work-home balance.

Most of this resonates as common sense. The reality is it does not happen on its own. It takes a deliberate effort and sensitivity to people’s well-being.

 

Bob Chrismas MPS, Ph.D. is a post-doctoral fellow with the Canadian Institute of Public Safety Research and Treatment. His current research focuses on mental health resources for emergency service personnel. Bob has served in law enforcement for over 35 years with a diverse policing career. Bob has published four books and many articles on justice-related issues. Learn more about Bob at BChrismas.com

End Human Trafficking

Honoured to join survivors, influencers, MLAs. MPs, Senators and supporters in signing the declaration for zero tolerance for human trafficking, making Canada the first to have such a global commitment.  It will travel the globe, starting with this event in Winnipeg.

It was wonderful meeting colleagues from past work I have done in this area, and hearing mention of my current and forthcoming books on the topic.

 

One pager for University of Manitoba

dream catcher poster Mauro PACS UM

 

 

Spotlighted by the Manitoba Writer’s Guild

Pretty cool to be SPOTLIGHTED as a Manitoba author by the Manitoba Writer’s Guild this month. It feels like not long ago I debated whether I would be called an “author” or not.
In July I will provide a workshop on writing non-fiction.

Spotlight by the MWG

MEMBER SPOTLIGHTBOB CHRISMAS, PhD

What’s your genre?  My writing lane was academic, having learned to write mostly through my grad studies, working through my Master Public Administration and then later my PhD in Peace and Conflict Studies. One of my professors had suggested why not publish papers you write for course assignments? It sent me on a whole new publications path. I found though, over the years, that I really preferred writing literature for formats that had a chance of reaching a broader audience. Articles and opinion pieces seemed fulfilling. With over 40 journal articles, several book chapters, and many other smaller pieces I had always wondered about fiction.     Then the pandemic came and I found myself locked down in my home office for several weeks, with that fictional story that I’d been mulling for some time. I didn’t have the details but the general idea was there. It would be a story to raise awareness about sex trafficking in Canada and would draw on my PhD research and over 30 years of policing experience. I viewed several online courses on writing fiction, and YouTube videos that are available for free by the truckload and started to learn about writing fiction. I ordered some classics that are regarded as some of the best written and Amazon brought them right to my door. The biggest difference, I found, was that the fictional story shows more than tells the story.     Once I started writing it, I fell in love with having the freedom to make the story. I was able to highlight the aspects I felt important and describe them with emotion that I felt less of in my non-fiction writing. My first fictional book, The River of Tears was born. I’ll call it literary fiction, because I tried to get into the heads of the protagonists and the challenges that families of missing persons face. I tried to describe dynamics around missing and murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and police-Indigenous relationships in Canada.     When it came time to publish, I started to reach out with proposals and started to receive the usual round of rejections. Then I came across a press that specializes in academic peer reviewed non-fiction with a focus on progressive socially-just publishing. I sent DIO Press a proposal and said I know you do not publish fiction, but I feel this might fit your imprint. They agreed and said they were breaking into fiction.       The two lessons I learned and wish to share with you are as follows. First, don’t get stuck in one genre. Do what your heart desires and see where it takes you. You might not have found your strongest voice if you have not experimented with multiple genres. The second lesson is to not restrict yourself from publishing houses or venues you think might not be interested. Put yourself out there and let them tell you if your work fits their imprint.Learn more about Bob at: https://bchrismas.com Books:The River of Tears. New York: DIO Press Inc. (Bob Chrismas, 2021).Sex Industry Slavery: Protecting Canada’s Youth. Toronto, ON, Canada: University of Toronto Press. (Bob Chrismas, 2020).Our Shared Future: Windows into Canada’s Reconciliation Journey. New York: Lexington. (Laura Reimer & Bob Chrismas, 2020).Canadian Policing in the 21st Century: A Frontline Officer on Challenges and Changes. Montreal, Canada: McGill-Queen’s University Press. (Bob Chrismas, 2013).

Interview on social conditions and policing in Winnipeg, wrapping up 2021

Interview with Richard Cloutier CJOB/Global News

on social conditions and policing in Winnipeg, wrapping up 2021

Ending violence against women

Link to video here

Article on Human Rights and the Sex Industry, Journal of Community Safety and Wellbeing

2021-12-15 JCSWB article Modern-day slavery, human rights and the sex industry

Passing the torch

Proud to pass the torch to my daughter Brandi- graduating recruit class on November 12th (2021). In my 32nd year, but feeling confident future public safety is in good hands.

Brandi’s salute from the Chief of Police upon graduation, and I got to stand for it.

Interview with Justice Report, November, 2021

Peace and Conflict Studies Newsletter November, 2021

 

Interview with JUSTICE REPORT

FULL ARTICLE HERE

 

Introducing The River of Tears

Click here for full magazine

WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE IF YOU WERE A BILLIONAIRE?

WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE IF YOU WERE A BILLIONAIRE? For me, not one thing. Sure, I have tough days, like all of us, but today I could not have had a better day. It’s not perfect, but it’s fulfilling. It started with an early get-up, when no-one else is awake, some creative writing work for a few hours, hang out with Barb and run some errands, then some meditation/tai chi/martial arts work until I run out of energy. Then, tinker around the house and do my part, dishes, garbage, whatever, followed by a movie, a meditative jacuzzi, and I am out of time. This is my retirement dream. The money from my current job is handy, and I still love policing, but I am so thankful for the pension we can draw on at some point, just to handle the financial demands of running a household. Writing feels like the way I can contribute to society. I have a lot to say that I feel will matter and make the world a better place. With three books out and three very different ones on the way, I feel fortunate to be able to work with the intention of leaving this tiny contribution to humanity and future generations. I can only hope to retain this type of fulfillment, for me and for all of you, my friends and colleagues.

End of Watch

Montreal, 1995

End of watch

Standing at attention in my best dress tunic, the slow beat of the drum issued ominously- pounding like shockwaves through the still morning air. It was snowing and damp. The kind that cuts through your clothing and scrapes your bones. “I’m freezing but there is no way I would be the one to break rank,” I thought and I’m sure my partner, Don Delorme felt the same. Two to three hundred officers from all over north America, mostly from across Canada- lined both sides of this Montreal street for at least a mile, maybe more; I cannot see that far. It was an honour guard for Constable Odette Pinard, 10-years with the Montreal Urban Police, 30 years old and married mother of two young children. In fact she had recently returned from maternity leave. She was in a police storefront, completing a report, and someone had come in and shot her, dead. A shotgun blast to the face, there’s not much more violent act than that. That was in the fall of 1995 and I was honoured to be sent from Winnipeg, where I was a six-year constable, and on the Winnipeg Police Association Board along with Don Delorme.

The single lead officer marched slowly to the beat of the base drum, carrying a pillow with Odette Pinard’s forage cap on it, a tradition in Canadian policing. He led a procession of Montreal Urban police officers followed by several cars with Odette’s family. It moved slowly up the center of the street lined with officers. It seemed to take forever for the sound of the drum to approach, and the procession came into sight. I thought, how great it is for her family, to see all of these officers paying respect. Don and I had packed our tunics, but not our winter coats, thinking we’re from Winnipeg; we don’t need parkas in Montreal. But that biting damp cold was worse than we expected. Many were in work uniforms or overcoats, but Don and I stood at attention, not flinching despite shaking violently from the cold. I just wanted to run into that store across the street and warm up, but thought I am not going to break rank, even if I wind up in the hospital. “The pain is a good thing,” I thought, it reinforces the gravity of the situation. Sure enough, I remember it today as though it just happened and that was 26 years ago, in the winter of 1995. Her murder remains unsolved, but at the time they speculated it was gang retaliation against the police as they had been cracking down hard on organized crime in Quebec. I’ll also never forget the reception afterwards; the emotion and the comradery among all the officers, from all over the place, who were there. Especially among the Montreal officers, I thought this is a family and they would leave no stone unturned to find them. Seeing the way her life and service were cherished and the loss of it mourned really drove home the feeling of the nobility and dignity of policing as a profession. It truly is community service on the deepest aspect. It is not only a willingness to lay down your life for perfect strangers; it could be for a person visiting the city, or homeless and vulnerable people.

Over the years I’ve participated in the honour guards for several other officers and they are all tragic. However, one funeral that stands out in my memory most was for Constable Darren Beatty in 2001 in Calgary Alberta. The story of how he was killed in service is incredibly heartbreaking. He was killed during a hostage-taking response exercise. They were training with live rounds, then took a break and switched to fake ammunition.  The guns were unloaded and reloaded with the simunition, but one officer accidentally left a live round chambered. When the exercise resumed, the officer fired one shot, thinking it was fake ammo, shooting Darren in the throat, killing him. The scenario was even more gut-wrenching because the officer who pulled the trigger was Beattie’s best friend. They were buddies on and off the job, stood up for each other at their weddings, and were even building houses next to each other. I was in Calgary on training and attended the honour guard. It was in October and there was no snow, and the officers were spread out much farther apart than they were in Montreal; so, the honour guard was long, maybe several miles.

The Canadian Police and Peace Officers’ Memorial Service is held each September to remember Canadian peace officers slain in the line of duty. I’ve had the honour of participating on about five occasions, and each time it rendered a lasting memory, and a reminder of the sacrifices police officers make every day. Prior to Covid, it was a spectacular gathering of hundreds of officers marched through downtown Ottawa and assembled on the grass in front of Centre Block of Parliament. It always gave us a feeling of pride and respect, and felt especially appropriate for the families of the slain officers. They are placed in front of the steps at Centre Block and the hats of the fallen officers for that year are marched past the families. These honour guards and memorials serve as a symbol of the value that society places on community service and protecting the vulnerable.

For years I subscribed to social media pages that published releases on officers’ “end of watch,” which is police vernacular for being killed in the line of duty. Some of these sites were American, and I had to eventually unsubscribe from them. They become overwhelming because in the US a police officer is killed in the line of duty almost every day, sometimes several in a day. While Canada honors a few each year at the National Memorial Service, the American version at Capital Hill honours over 300 deaths per year.
When tragedy strikes, society’s true value for the police service is highlighted. It is sad that the media and some citizens sometimes get sidetracked from these deep values and respect that the majority of people have for those who dedicate themselves to policing. It would be better if they always started with the perspective that people enter public service to make the world a better place. The sacrifices that officers make are most often not as dramatic as being killed on duty. More often they are killed over a lifetime of physical abuse, nightshifts that take years off your life, and sometimes substance abuse linked to the deep trauma of all those years of exposure to the worst of humanity. Without exception, those officers who serve for decades in policing carry the emotional scars from their service and care for their community to the end of their watch.

 

 

Beating the Coronavirus

This Corona virus has knocked some of us on our ass, but only for a few weeks; nine in our family got sick and two dead, one from the virus and one from a broken heart, we believe, because she couldn’t see her family for months, but it affects us all because everyone steps up. It lingers, but we’ll beat it. Our family, and all of us Canadians can deal with anything, and we started training for it during the great wars, when our young folks gave up so much for the freedoms we have today. I am so proud of our family, our community, in Winnipeg and in Canada, the way we pull together in a crisis. We can overcome any adversity, just not the ever advancing march of time.

Rest in peace Violet, you are back with Dad now

Violet was born in Winnipeg, in 1929 and grew up in Brooklyn; she passed away peacefully in Tuxedo Villa Care Home on October 10th, 2020.

There are so many stories, but this one stands out. When she was 10 years old Violet’s father enlisted in the army to fight in World War II. In the six years he was gone, from 1939 to 1945, Violet, her younger sister Evelyn and their mother only heard his voice once, in a pre-recorded message that was played for them over the radio in a Winnipeg theatre. Even at 90 years of age and with advanced Alzheimers, Violet still cried when she recounted her father getting off the train, after six years away, and not recognizing her. Now suddenly father of two teenage girls, there was some tension and Violet used to love talking about how they eventually worked things out as a family.

Violet worked at Rolls Royce and then the Bay Downtown had many stories, especially from her time as a personal shopper, assisting people. When they heard she was engaged to be married, Violet was called in by the manager and let go- as policy at the time was to not employ married women. They said she could come back anytime when the policy changed; it was a different era. We always wanted to take her back there later in life and demand her job back.

Violet married Doug, from a small farm in Vivian Manitoba, and had three kids, Doug, Debbie and Bob. She was a total mother and cared about nothing other than the welfare of her family. Struggling to retain her memory in the last few years Violet’s fulltime hobby was remembering the names of her children and grand-children, who she loved dearly. When we visited her in Tuxedo Villa, Violet would recite their names: Doug and Star and their kids, Tony, David, Karen (now Violet), Scott and Heather, Debbie and Charlie and their kids, George, and Amanda, and Bob and Barb and their kids, Crystal, Chelsea, Brandi and Bobby. It was tragic when Violet had to move into a home without her cherished cats. She would have loved nothing more than to be involved more over the last ten years with all of us, and all of her great-grandchildren, who all live on because of her.

Violet and Doug (Mom and Dad), modelled unconditional love and the importance of family for all of us. Now they are back together and their legacy will live on.

Recognizing Canadian Freedoms

My article on modern day freedoms in Canada, published in September, 2020, in Convenience and Carwash Canada (click for link)

Happiness and fulfilment

Life is tough; there’s no doubt about it. I think a bit of wisdom I’ve comprehended is that what is important in life is the journey; we need to learn how to appreciate the journey and the people we share it with. There is no destination; it is here in the present. The secret to fulfilment is to let go of what we desire, and what we regret, and be present and love unconditionally the people who choose to be present with us and appreciate us for what we are right here and now. Help people when you can and love unconditionally.

Employee retention in the post-COVID Era

Convenience and Carwash Canada, July/August 2020 issue

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