As human beings, we have an innate need to connect with others. This need is fulfilled through the creation and maintenance of communities. A community boasts and fosters a group of people who share common interests, values, and goals. These groups can be found in various forms; however, how you choose to do it is entirely up to you!
The benefits of being a part of a community are numerous. For one, communities provide a sense of belonging and identity. Communities promote connection which in turn promotes a stronger sense of who we are. It improves our resiliency to stressful events and allows us to hold connection with people we can trust and confide with. Being heard, understood and supported is an incredibly important part of staying well as a first responder. They also provide a sense of support and encouragement, which can be especially important during the hard miles as a first responder.
Communities also play a vital role in personal growth and development. Through interacting with others, we are exposed to new ideas, perspectives, and ways of living. This exposure can help us to expand our understanding of the world and ourselves. Additionally communities often provide opportunities for personal development, such as mentorship. Mentorship is often undervalued by many and most of us will at one point struggle with our health or mindset.
So, why is community so important for a first responder? Firstly, look look at who is in your community? How big is it? The people who make up your community ultimately impact your ability to stay mentally well.
Cops often tend to feel isolated from society, they are no longer the sheep and they are not the wolf. The career at one point will most likely leave you feeling like a social outcast. You may begin to feel unsupported by the general public. Social movements such as “defund the police” may further exasperate and compound these feelings of loneliness or a lack of support. Anger may begin to swirl within as you continue to feel like your saving the world and taking it on all by yourself.
These feelings can also be experienced when we consider our relationship with Crown Counsel. The body that is there to hold those accountable, the ones that do wrong to us or others as we try to defend and serve our community members. Often times we grow frustrated by Crown and their inability or lack of desire to support us during events where we too have been victims. The justice system has failed many of us. Leaving us feeling frustrated as to why we would even continue to enforce laws that are not supported by the justice system that we so faithfully serve.
For the record, this is not a cynical or pessimistic view. This is the reality of the profession and what we may experience. We crave acceptance from others. It is something we all need to be understood and seen. To be valued and celebrated. To be supported when we hurt. We deserve this as humans, more importantly we deserve as Police Officers and first responders.
A lack of community will leave you unsupported and more vulnerable than you can recognize in the moment. We may begin to become immersed in work as our only source of identity as we make our workplace our “community”.
While the bonds created amongst first responders are incredibly strong, it is also incredibly important to have connections with those that are not first responders. These supportive connections help us stay grounded, regulated and may challenge our perspectives as it holds us accountable to others. It also offers stability for us as we attempt to serve in workplace roles that are faced with constant tragedy, trauma and moments of crisis.
Personally speaking I've done life both ways. Once without community and now with community. Both had very real impacts to myself, both negative and positive. Life has an interesting way of teaching us lessons once we open our eyes to what our journey looks like.