Breaking Barriers and Continued Service
Written by Libby Reilly
Jay Kolick was one of the youngest sworn law enforcement officers of Pennsylvania when he began his career at the age of 19. He began with patrol work and the courts, working for a judge in warrant summons and extraditions. He was eager and hardworking, doing all he could to learn, improve, and build a career of which he was proud.
Kolick did just that. He worked in law enforcement in Pennsylvania until 2014 when he began an early retirement following a career with experience in law enforcement, emergency management, and homeland security. Retirement for Kolick, however, is anything but sleeping in late and watching daytime television. Oh no, Kolick is taking retirement in stride as he works tirelessly to change the face of mental health stigmas in law enforcement.
“Now that I look back on it, I have a very diverse career that I have been given the fortune to experience. It’s pretty neat.”
Kolick has been busy working in academics doing research and education surrounding behavioral health, criminal justice, and emergency management.
He earned his master’s degree in criminal justice from CSU in 2008, a degree to accompany a list of other noble educational feats. Kolick loves to learn and will never cease being a student.
While enrolled at CSU, Kolick was introduced to Dr. Joe Manjone, the vice provost of continuing education. Both from the Philadelphia area and enthralled with education, the two became comrades quite instantaneously. In 2015, Kolick reached out to Manjone regarding the possibility of behavioral health projects for CSU, and the ball started to roll.
They have since created two courses together in the Continuing Education department at CSU: forensic sociology of addictions and what Kolick calls a shortened version of abnormal psychology, a course that breaks down phycology to field personnel in the effort to evoke empathy and understanding when dealing with those suffering with mental illness.
A lot of what we see in the fields of public safety and mental health today is not enough training in empathy of those they are dealing with aside from the basic clinical knowledge,” says Kolick.
He has made it his life’s missions to change this. By working with CSU, his goal is to “break barriers and social stigmas.”
Kolick hopes to spread the knowledge of alternate responses from police force when the background of certain behaviors are recognized. He also hopes to spread knowledge and empathy when it comes to those working in first response positions that they are human too, that they aren’t immune to mental and emotional traumas.
“We have a huge issue with law enforcement dealing with addictions and post-traumatic stress from routine duties and jobs. There is a high rate of alcoholism, divorce, depression, suicide. I’ve seen friends and colleagues commit suicide or go to rehab and go through very traumatic experiences. These are people you were at the academy with and have grown very close to and you want to do anything you can to help them. This is how I got involved in the mental health component.”
Kolick says part of the issues he sees is law enforcement officers not being able to embrace the notion that they feel things just like everyone else. He wants them to know that it is okay and that nonjudgemental help is available.
“Think about it,” Kolick explains, “When police officers meet people, it’s typically at their worst moments; nobody calls 9-1-1 when things are fine. They’ve dutifully taken on this role and are being exposed to trauma on a daily basis and they may not realize it until it’s too late. If we can get them to recognize the signs, we can intervene early enough so they don’t have all of the negative outcomes like depression, suicide and divorce.”
It is post-traumatic stress, which can manifest itself in many different forms and times. It can cause symptoms immediately after a traumatizing experience or long after. It can also cause disassociation, flashbacks, irritability, difficulty sleeping, isolation, codependency, and more.
This can be especially concerning for those in law enforcement aside from the stigma and the lack of understanding associated with mental health. Symptoms can be triggered at any time on the job or on a specific type of call. While officers are often responding in fight or flight mode and must be both physically and mentally present in the face of harm, symptoms of post-traumatic stress can come about at any time, triggering memories of the traumatic event of their past. Many are not aware of the implications of what they are experiencing and also that there are options out there.
“Having a focus and mission on mental health helps me to focus on my own life and feel good about the things I’m doing for the field.”
Kolick has made a huge impact with those in the Department of Continuing Education at Columbia Southern University through their joint efforts to promote education surrounding the relationship between law enforcement and mental health. Assistant provost of continuing education, Dr. Joe Manjone, said, “Jay is truly a superhero – in spite of being faced with much adversity, he has amassed a great deal of knowledge and has done much for his community, profession and students. I am honored to say that he is a part of the CSU family.”
Today, Kolick is working full time, teaching, working on a criminal justice program at a college in the Philedelphia area, and working with the Center of Continuing Education at Columbia Southern University. He plans to pursue a doctorate in traumatology over the next few years.
“CSU has given me an awesome opportunity to provide the ability to help educate professionals on the mental health component that faces society and public safety. Problems come back to the lack of training and education and proper communication. My work reminds me that I am striving to make a difference for everyone in these fields. It keeps my mind from wandering and keeps me out of trouble.”
Jay Kolick is a shining example of the impact that our alumni can make in their communities, professions and the world.