Thursday, May 27, 2010

In Memoriam: Gary Logan

I took my first Critical Incident Stress Management training class in 2003.  It was offered through my school district and taught by two social workers from the county department of Community Mental Health.  One of them was Gary Logan.  Gary was, among other things, the coordinator of the county community CISM team, called the Traumatic Events Response Network (TERN).  At the end of the class, he solicited volunteers who wanted to join the team.  I signed up.

I'm not sure that Gary knew what to do with me at first.  There are two categories of CISM responders:  mental health professionals and peers (some would argue that there's also a third -- clergy).  TERN, at that point, was entirely made up of mental health professionals because there was no one population it served.  Where a team assisting police officers would have cops on it as peers, a team assisting all kinds of people doesn't know what kind of peers it needs.  For the first few years, I was only tapped to respond when there was a crisis involving children or schools. 

Gary and I consulted and worked with each other more frequently when he came to assist our district team -- which needed lots of school personnel as peers -- with crises in our schools.  He was very interesting to watch and work with.  He had a calm about him in everything he did, and it put people at ease.  I learned from him how to explain complex psychological processes in language people could understand, how to grasp themes from what people were saying, and how to firmly state what you think is the right thing to do and accept that sometimes those in charge are not going to listen to you.  I never saw him sweat.

A few years ago, when I decided to pursue a Certificate of Specialized Training in schools and children crisis response, I asked Gary to please include me on more critical incident stress debriefings, and he did.  He started assigning me to respond as a peer outside of schools -- in community settings, businesses, and even responding to a group of mental health professionals from his agency following the murder of a client.  When I floated the idea of becoming a CISM instructor, Gary wrote my recommendation and told me he thought I'd be great.

Over the last couple of years, Gary has invited me to substitute for him as the coordinator on call for the county team and even allowed me to coordinate a couple of responses myself, something I do as a peer in a school setting all the time but a rarity out in the "real world."  He has expressed faith in me at every turn, strongly encouraging me to take on whatever I could, expand my consulting and, most recently, start considering earning a mental health degree myself.  His confidence in me has been astounding, and it has increased my confidence in myself.

Over the years I have needed assistance more than once with crises in which I was affected myself.  Gary was always my first call.  Watching him from the "other side" of a response was amazing, and his support was so helpful to all of us.  Whether I was responding or being responded too, Gary always reminded me to take good care of myself, and knew that I wasn't always so good at it without his reminders.

Gary retired when his department was cut at the end of last year.  He continued to coordinate TERN as a contractor.  Yesterday, he died suddenly during treatment for heart disease.  He was 63.  I doubt there will ever be anyone with as much faith in my crisis response skills as Gary.  I also doubt there will be anybody I so readily call on in my own time of need.  In fact, this morning, after I heard that he had died, I found myself wishing more than anything that I could talk it over with my friend and mentor, Gary Logan.


Sally Wright Day said...

Sorry you're hurting on this, Naomi. Sounds as if Gary's death leaves a big hole in the world as well as your heart. Especially hard to lose someone from this plane who believes in you so thoroughly.

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Naomi Zikmund-Fisher
is a clinical social worker, former school Principal and a Crisis Consultant for schools and community organizations. You can learn more about her at
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