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Can J Psychiatry. 2018 Jan;63(1):54-64. doi: 10.1177/0706743717723825. Epub 2017 Aug 28.

Mental Disorder Symptoms among Public Safety Personnel in Canada.

Author information

1
1 Anxiety and Illness Behaviours Laboratory, Department of Psychology, University of Regina, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.
2
2 University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
3
3 University of Regina, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.
4
4 Memorial University of Newfoundland, Saint John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.
5
5 Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
6
6 Queen's University, Kington, Ontario, Canada.
7
7 Douglas Hospital, Verdun, Quebec, Canada.
8
8 Correctional Service of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
9
9 Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.
10
10 Canadian Health Information Management Association, Regina, Canada.
11
11 University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
12
12 University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
13
13 National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, White River Junction, Vermont, USA.
14
14 Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Canadian public safety personnel (PSP; e.g., correctional workers, dispatchers, firefighters, paramedics, police officers) are exposed to potentially traumatic events as a function of their work. Such exposures contribute to the risk of developing clinically significant symptoms related to mental disorders. The current study was designed to provide estimates of mental disorder symptom frequencies and severities for Canadian PSP.

METHODS:

An online survey was made available in English or French from September 2016 to January 2017. The survey assessed current symptoms, and participation was solicited from national PSP agencies and advocacy groups. Estimates were derived using well-validated screening measures.

RESULTS:

There were 5813 participants (32.5% women) who were grouped into 6 categories (i.e., call center operators/dispatchers, correctional workers, firefighters, municipal/provincial police, paramedics, Royal Canadian Mounted Police). Substantial proportions of participants reported current symptoms consistent with 1 (i.e., 15.1%) or more (i.e., 26.7%) mental disorders based on the screening measures. There were significant differences across PSP categories with respect to proportions screening positive based on each measure.

INTERPRETATION:

The estimated proportion of PSP reporting current symptom clusters consistent with 1 or more mental disorders appears higher than previously published estimates for the general population; however, direct comparisons are impossible because of methodological differences. The available data suggest that Canadian PSP experience substantial and heterogeneous difficulties with mental health and underscore the need for a rigorous epidemiologic study and category-specific solutions.

KEYWORDS:

first responders; mental disorders; operational stress injuries; posttraumatic stress disorder; public safety personnel

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