Over the past five years, I have had the pleasure to present to over 5,000 law enforcement officers on the topics of suicide and depression warning signs, medication myths, department policy revision, and told of my personal experience with the stigma of mental health issues.
I spent 12 years at the Bolingbrook, IL Police Department moving quickly through the ranks achieving the position of Commander at age 34. My career ended in 2008 after I was hospitalized for Suicidal Ideation. Illinois law is not friendly to those who are hospitalized; you lose your right to carry a firearm.
To see a video of my story, please click www.talk2endstigma.com and select “Story.”
My life has found new purpose ever since. In 2010, we moved to Wisconsin and my role in suicide prevention was launched. I am a volunteer with BringChange2Mind, a member of the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Death Response Team (LEDR), present at countless Crisis Intervention Trainings (CIT) where I addresses the subject of “Taking care of our own”, am a certified trainer in QPR (Question, Persuade, and Refer), and have a passion for keeping officers well by simply being able to talk about their struggles.
So many doors have been opened and I am humbled by the work I have been chosen to do. In January I presented to 231 law enforcement executives from 47 states and 20 countries at the FBI National Academy. I was immediately requested to speak at the Academy again in the coming months. I don’t look at it as “Chris did a good job”, but rather that law enforcement is thirsty for this training and conversation. It’s not easy, but groups like this and training in mental wellness/suicide prevention are causing a paradigm shift in thinking within law enforcement. It is actually becoming OK to ask for help.
Before I get on my soapbox and literally write out my 2-hour presentation, I will end this already long email with a note of thanks to each of you. You have already touched so many people and I am certain they have been positively affected by you sharing your story, talking about your struggles, or simply lending an ear. I am honored to have known Joe Collins for many years and am so appreciative of him selecting me to be part of this elite group.
Serving as a Training Sergeant at the DPS Academy I am collaborating with the US Air Force and have developed a Law Enforcement Leadership Resilience program named S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strength & Honor In Everyday Lawful Decisions) I am a former Air Force PJ Instructor and the “Never Quit” attitude is the embodiment of the program. My partner Lacy Wolff and I have teamed up and with an innovative and supportive chain of command and together we share real accounts with officers and their families ideas of how to excel and exist in optimal form both on and off duty during these volatile times. Next to officers sharing accounts of their lethal engagements, this course is the most dynamic and contemporary course that will stir your spirit to remember why you chose your profession and who you chose it for.
As a Training Specialist within the Education, Training and Research Division I have the opportunity to work with the Recruits at the State Trooper Training Academy on a daily basis. Our day starts with morning Physical Training and encompasses a wide variety of evidence based, progressive training protocols. The DPS Physical Training and Testing Model have been validated and are being replicated in agencies across the state of Texas and beyond. It is an honor to be a part of this team and to have the opportunity to work with these recruits on a daily basis.
My position also allows me the opportunity to teach health education classes to various populations within DPS, both Commissioned and Non-Commissioned. I offer classes across a wide range of topics to include: Yoga, General Wellness, Nutrition, Exercise Science, Healthy Sleep Habits, Behavior Change, Goal Setting, and Resilience.
I am also a co-instructor of the S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strength and Honor in Everyday Lawful Decisions) Course, which has recently grabbed the attention of many leaders within DPS, and also many outside agencies. This 8 hour course includes 5 modules and covers: The Stress Response System, Mindset, Lethal Engagement, Recharge, and Mind Tactics. I believe this course is generating much needed conversation that is honest and real within the field of Law Enforcement.
Years of education, specialized training, and work experience combine to form the foundation of my mission for suicide prevention among public safety officers. Yet my proudest accomplishments come from lived experience. Growing up in a family with a long history of fire service, I was able to witness the impact of the helping profession on family life. As a spouse of a veteran police officer who moved through the ranks over a long, prosperous career, I had the opportunity to apply what I learned albeit through a different lens of law enforcement. My husband is now retired, and we continue to grow through yet another phase of the profession. I am proud to represent the family perspective as a civilian member of the FBI NAA OSW team. In a bittersweet way, I also represent those who have lost a loved one to suicide. Personal experience helps me apply the principles of suicide prevention as a trainer, speaker, consultant, volunteer, and author.
Captain Brian Nanavaty
Captain Brian Nanavaty is a 30-year veteran of law enforcement and former adjunct faculty in Criminal Justice at Indiana and Purdue Universities (IN). He developed and manages the IMPD Office of Professional Development and Officer Wellness and currently serves as the Director of Training & Curriculum for Safe Call Now. In addition, Nanavaty is an instructor for the Public Agency Training Council (PATC) Risk Management and Leadership Institutes and has previously instructed for the FBI, FBINAA and has presented at the IACP and ILEETA conferences.
Janelle Cronk specializes in strategic accounts and partnerships. She is a strategic performance coach and has a unique ability of creating fast and critical solutions. Janelle has earned a certificate of honor from the US Capitol in saving many lives within the first responder population. Janelle partners with fortune 500 companies to help them review performance and sustainability with their employees in a new perspective.
Janelle’s personal motivation is to help collaborate and connect those who are providing superior care for those who have substance and mental health complexities to the right resources.
Joe joined the Two Rivers Police Department in April of 2005. He began his law enforcement career in August of 1985. During his career he has held numerous positions to include patrol, patrol supervisor, investigator, trainer, patrol administrator, and police chief. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Administration of Criminal Justice and an associate degree in Police Science and is working on his master’s degree in Managing Organizational Behavior.
During his 31 years in law enforcement he has been involved in a number of specialty areas including SWAT, drug investigations, field training supervision, bike patrol supervisor, marine patrol, honor guard, use of force instructor, and many other areas.
He is a federally certified Use of Force and Firearms Instructor and has trained officers throughout the United States and Internationally. He is a member of the International Chief of Police Association (IACP) and the Wisconsin Chief of Polices Association and formerly served as the Chair of the Training and Professional Development committee for this organization. He also served as the President of the Wisconsin SWAT Association and spent 13 years on the board of directors.
He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, session 236, and is the 2015-2016 President of the Wisconsin FBI National Academy Association, Co-Chair of the FBI National Academy Associated Safety & Wellness Committee and member of the Finance Committee. He was appointed to the Wisconsin Training and Standards Board by Governor Walker and elected by the board to the position of Chairperson.
For the past ten years he has been the lead coordinator of the Wisconsin LEDR (Law Enforcement Death Response) Team. Through this position he assists agencies when they face the loss of one of their own.
Chief Collins was selected by the Wisconsin Attorney General & the Wisconsin Department of Justice as the 2015-2016 Wisconsin Law Enforcement Officer of the Year for his leadership throughout his career to improve law enforcement within the state and nationally.
I am a retired US Air Force Colonel who did a career in Security Forces (military police). I spent some Special Operations time in what we call Human Factors, mostly on the physical performance side (I have a sports background) which further intrigued me and drove my interest into the psychological side of optimizing human performance. As such, a unit I commanded (820th Base Defense Group…see season two of “Combat Rescue” on the NatGeo channel) became the test bed for the Air Force’s Comprehensive Airmen Fitness program and development of the Defender’s Edge program. This is what Mel and Lacey’s program was built upon (they’ve taken it to a whole new level) for the Texas DPS. Now I teach, coach (swimming and football mostly) do catering and business development for a local Chick-fil-a, and do a lot of biking (took a 1300 mile trip in March from St Louis to San Antonio). I also work the OSW, and for my local FBINAA chapter as we are hosting the national conference here in St Louis in July. Have lived in Japan, Korea, Australia, England Canada…and Afghanistan and Iraq if you can call the last two “living.” Been to most of the nasty places, and many good places on the planet as I headed up the DoD’s Prisoner and Detainee movement program (Think Beau Berdahl exchange as someone had to move those five Taliban detainees to the point of exchange). If you need more than that, let me know. I’ve attached my AF retired bio if you want to delve deeper into that side of my former life.
Chief Zakhary started his law enforcement career with the City of Woodway. He started out as a dispatcher in 1979 and worked his way up the ranks as a police officer, supervisor, and investigator. He was appointed Chief in 1985. In 2001, he was appointed City Manager/Public Safety Director. Chief Zakhary holds a B.A. in Management and a M.A. in Public Policy and Public Administration from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He is a graduate of the 160th Session F.B.I National Academy. During his tenure at Woodway, Chief Zakhary worked diligently on improving all employee pay, retention and benefits, and improving technology utilization within the department and communications county-wide. In February 2009, Woodway became the 14th department in the State of Texas to receive the certification of recognition for completion of the Texas Police Chiefs Association Prestigious Best Practices Recognition Program. Chief Zakhary is an active participant in many law enforcement related positions and offices. In October of 2009 he was elected to serve as 4th Vice President of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and has served on numerous IACP committees. In October of 2013, he wassworn in as President of the IACP. During Chief Zakhary’s term as IACP President, he focused on many law enforcement topics but there were three key topics he placed a big emphasis on: officer safety and wellness, violence and crime in minority communities and mental health of arrestees and how it affects the officers. While representing IACP, Chief Zakhary has had the privilege of traveling to several countries and meeting with top key officials from each of those countries. Chief Zakhary is an Adjunct Professor at Baylor University and McLennan Community College. He serves as chair for the M.C.C. Law Enforcement Advisory Committee Board and the county-wide E.M.S. Committee which serves the entire county. Chief Zakhary has served as the Board President of the McLennan County E-9-1-1 Board of Managers since its inception in 1986. Chief Zakhary is married to Julie and they have twin daughters, Lauren and Emily, age 21.