Monday, May 2, 2016

Tragedy Strikes Indiscriminately

Tragedy strikes indiscriminately, and each one impacts people differently.  Our community has suffered another tragedy this week, with our church again impacted as well.  I have seen, and felt, a variety of emotions throughout.  Our family knows the Ingrham family in several ways through church and the community, and we as a family dealt with those personal emotions this weekend.  I know several of the pastors who have reached out to and members of the Ingrham family and seen the stress they have been through.  I also know several of the Sheriff’s deputies and emergency personnel who were involved, talked with some of their family about the stress they have felt, and have heard of some efforts undertaken by our deputies who personally went above and beyond in the efforts they took, both on and off duty.  I am proud of them.

There are a lot of emotions that have gone through me over the last few days, due to some of our own family issues as well as the events from last Friday.  Pastor Carr talked about it on Sunday when he addressed our church family after suffering from yet another significant tragedy; I have mentioned before that Kedarie Johnson had attended Harmony.  Pastor Carr talked about a few things that are part of times like these.  I don’t have my notes from what he said, but I do remember some of those thoughts.  They included the need to grieve, and the recognition that there will be questioning and anger.  He talked also about the need to come together in love and support.  He noted that we do not live in a perfect world; there is evil that must be confronted.  He also noted that there is a source of comfort out there for those who are willing to seek it.  My prayers are with all who have been impacted over the past few days.  My hope is, much as after Kedarie’s death, we can come together as a community and support each other in the days and weeks ahead.

I did want to say again how thankful I am for the people who have chosen to place themselves in the middle of these difficult events, the pastors, counselors, and emergency service personnel who have come alongside hurting people and been directly impacted.  These are people who, time and again, place themselves in the middle of high emotional stress to meet the needs of others.  This emotional stress can wear people down, though.  The May 2016 issue of Public Management magazine had an article entitled “Trauma Takes Its Toll” as its centerpiece.  The article focused on the significant emotional impact our emergency services personnel, including police, fire, EMS and dispatchers, face.  They discussed a survey undertaken by Fitch & Associates of fire and EMS personnel.  Among the results were that 37% of respondents had contemplated suicide, and that 6.6% had attempted it (both of which are about 10 times the national average).  The article also noted that at least 759 firefighters have committed suicide since 2012, and that estimates range from 125 to 300 police officers committing suicide every year.

These are sobering statistics, and I have personally seen people in these industries suffer from depression.  We offer support for our employees, and we have a very active chaplaincy program available through our police department.  Yet we need to do more.  The article mentions several action items to consider as an employer, and we need to seriously consider them.  We as a community need to support them as well.  Tragedy strikes indiscriminately every day on some level.  People need to continue to see a friendly smile and find a willing ear.  My prayer is we will find ways to be that for each other.