Winona State hosts “The Pain Behind the Badge” seminar

Kellen Brandt, Features Reporter

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On Friday, Sept. 6, Winona State University hosted an event titled “The Pain Behind the Badge,” presented by Clarke and Tracie Paris. This is the second time the university has hosted this event.

Winona State’s criminal justice and sociology departments and Riverland Community College helped bring this event to campus.

This seminar brought Winona State students, faculty, staff, EMS workers, the local fire department, nurses and law enforcement from the community along with visitors from all over the area to participate.    

Clarke Paris, the head of “The Pain Behind the Badge” event and the creator of “Winning the Battle” seminar explained the importance of this event.

“The Pain Behind the Badge presentation and the ‘Winning the Battle’ training discusses the things in life that people categorize as normal,” Paris said. “When police officers, firefighters, or anyone else starts to struggle they think they can’t say anything because they think it’s just normal stuff in the world of first responders.”

Paris explained that it is not normal, first responders see and experience extreme situations that can be hard to process. “Winning the Battle” created a safe space for people to learn about the stressors of working as a first responder and how to take care of one’s mental health in the field.

“Here in America, being a police officer is pretty intense but realizing you’re not alone makes it a lot easier,” Paris said. “We stress that it’s okay to not be okay, the whole day is about encouraging conversation on suicide and these other tough subjects.”

The seminar covered the stress of first responders’ jobs and the overwhelming effects of experiencing traumatic situations in the workplace. Paris talked about how situations add up over time and boil over tending to break down workers in the field.

“We talk about how it impacts your family how it impacts your health, how it impacts your career,” Paris said. “At the end of the day we call it a honorable career, but it really is life changing. The job makes you a better person not a lesser person and that’s what we say during the presentation.”    

Paris and his wife have been around the world and to many different locations following traumatic news breaking events in the world, presenting in 800 locations in 12 years.

James Parlow, criminal justice professor, led the discussion.

“If having the event here on this campus prevents just one person from taking that ultimate step  it is well worth it,” Parlow said.

Parlow encouraged students outside of criminal justice majors to attend to learn how to help those who do suffer trauma.

“For psychology students it is important for them to come because sooner or later they may come across a police officer, EMT worker, or emergency room doctor or nurse that is struggling and needs their counseling and support,” Parlow said.

Winona State University has an average of 30-40 students per year go through the criminal justice program to work in law enforcement, making this event beneficial to a large population of criminal justice students, alongside many other majors.

“We encourage students to use their resources and not have the specter of being seen as weak because you went for assistance,” Parlow said. “You’re actually pretty damn strong if you can realize that you need help and do reach out for help.”

Paris ended the interview with advice that all students, not only criminal justice majors can walk away with.

“Know that it is okay to not be okay,” Paris said.