Publications

Risk Factors for Mental Disorder Symptoms in Police

Why was the study done?

Police, like all public safety personnel (PSP), are exposed to stressful and potentially psychologically traumatic events as part of their jobs, which can lead PSP to suffer mental health disorders. Demographic risk factors like sex, marital status, education level, and years on the job, and cognitive risk factors like Anxiety Sensitivity (AS; fear of anxiety symptoms) and Intolerance of Uncertainty (IU; worry about uncertain future events), may be related to the development of mental disorder symptoms. Understanding the relationships between these potential risk factors helps to support the development of new protocols and training to support police mental health.

What was done in the study?

PSP were recruited through their employers, organizations, or public announcements to participate in an online survey assessing mental health symptoms; specifically, symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Panic Disorder (PD), and Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), as well as reporting their levels of AS and IU. Participants also completed demographic questions. The current results focus on responses from participants who self-identified as police officers. Data for the current study results were provided by 979 police officers (708 males, 271 females).

What was found?

•  There were no statistically significant relationships between education, marital status, years of service, and mental health symptoms, or with AS and IU.

•  A person’s sex had a significant effect on all measures (excluding SAD and AS); indicating females experienced more mental disorder symptoms.

•  After controlling for sex, AS and IU measures showed a higher correlation with mental disorder symptoms than sex alone (i.e. the higher the AS and IU scores the more likely a person will have mental disorder symptoms).The result indicates AS and IU may be more influential in the development of mental health disorders than demographic risk factors.

Where do we go from here?

The study results are based on a snapshot of participants. Going forward, data should be collected from a larger group of participants over a longer period. The current results do indicate two trends: 1) female police are more likely to experience mental health issues; 2) cognitive risk factors appear important to the development of mental health disorders. The trends suggest further research directions for developing proactive approaches to mental health because AS and IU can be changed with training. Proactive, evidence-based training might be a key to limiting mental health issues in the police.


The original wording of the study was changed and condensed for the current lay summary

Original Study

Korol, S., Vig, K., Teale Sapach, M.J.N., Asmundson, G.J.G., & Carleton, R.N. (in press). Demographic and cognitive risk factors for police mental disorder symptoms. The Police Journal: Theory, Practice and Principles, 1-18. doi:10.1177/0032258X19894619

Lay Summary prepared by Kossick, E., Reviewed and Edited by Carleton, R.N. & Martin, R.

Growing Difficulties… Public Safety Personnel and Exposure to Trauma

Full Publication

Why are we doing this study?

Public safety personnel (PSP) in Canada are facing growing difficulties dealing with mental health issues. There is evidence that exposure to traumatic events may be linked to mental health disorders. However, little research has been done to find out which types of traumatic events are potentially more damaging, and how often the different public safety sectors are exposed to different traumatic events.

What was done in the study?

PSP, recruited through their employers, organizations, or public announcements, participated in an online survey that assessed mental health symptoms and invited open-ended feedback.  PSP members were asked to identify: the sector in which they worked (e.g. communications, corrections, fire, paramedicine, policing); which traumatic events they had experienced; and which event was the worst or most distressing. The participants were also asked to complete several mental health assessment questions.

What did we find?

  • Exposure to potentially traumatic events appeared to be a part of the regular workload for PSP
  • Sudden violent deaths, unexpected accidental deaths, and severe transportation accidents appeared to be the events most often considered traumatic for all PSP sectors.
  • The types of potentially traumatic events PSP encountered in their work differs from one public safety sector to another.
  • Different types of potentially traumatic events were associated with different types of mental disorders. For example,screening positive for depression was connected to all types of potentially traumatic events, except for fire or
  • Sudden violent deaths and severe human suffering were reported as especially problematic for PSP.These events are considered critical incidents, which may justify specific support services and programs for PSP who have experienced such events.

Where do we go from here?

The longer a PSP member serves, the greater his or her exposure to potentially traumatic events. The results indicated thatPSP sector category, types of exposure to potentially traumatic events, uncertainty, perceptions about the events, and mental disorders all interact, creating an intricate pattern that may require lots of tailoring to manage successfully. The results highlight the need for critical incident interventions and other mental health supports designed to lessen the effects of such exposure.

Contact Us

For more information about this research, please contact CIPSRT@cipsrt-icrtsp.ca.

Carleton, R. N., Afifi, T. O., Taillieu, T., Turner, S., Krakauer, R., Anderson, G. S., MacPhee, R. S., Ricciardelli, R, Cramm, H. A., Groll, D., & McCreary, D. R. (2019). Exposures to potentially traumatic events among public safety personnel in Canada. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science / Revue canadienne des sciences du comportement, 51(1), 37-52. doi: 10.1037/cbs0000115


Summary prepared by: Willis-Camp, T. and Carleton, R. N., 11 March 2019. Edited by Kossick, E. September 2019.

 

Mental Health Training, Attitudes Toward Support, and Screening Positive for Mental Disorders (2019)

Full Publication

Lay Summary “I Want Help, But Not From You: Public Safety Personnel and Mental Health Programs and Support

Public safety personnel were asked about their experience with mental health training, their attitudes about mental health, and the types of assistance they were willing to use if they had a workplace mental health issue. Results showed that PSP are most willing to rely on their spouse or friends for mental health support, and would only consider using an Employee Assistance Program as a last resort. There needs to be more research done in order to better understand why PSP access mental health training and the effect it may have on certain types of mental health disorders. This study also shows that more training and resource support for PSP family members and leadership may be needed.

Carleton, R.N., Afifi, T.O., Turner, S., Taillieu, T., Vaughan, A.D., Anderson, G.S., Ricciardelli, R., MacPhee, R.S., Cramm, H.A., Czarnuch, S., Hozempa, K., & Camp, R.D. (2019). Mental health training, attitudes toward support, and screening positive for mental disorders. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, pp.1-19. doi:10.1080/16506073.2019.1575900

Exposures to Potentially Traumatic Events Among Public Safety Personnel in Canada (2019)

Full Publication

Lay Summary “How Much Trauma is Too Much? Public Safety Personnel and Exposure to Traumatic Events

First responders and other public safety personnel in Canada may be experiencing substantial difficulties with symptoms of mental health disorders. These difficulties may be associated with increased exposure to potentially traumatic events as part of working in public safety, with specific types of events appearing as particularly problematic.

Carleton, R. N., Afifi, T. O., Taillieu, T., Turner, S., Krakauer, R., Anderson, G. S., MacPhee, R. S., Ricciardelli, R, Cramm, H. A., Groll, D., & McCreary, D. R. (2019). Exposures to potentially traumatic events among public safety personnel in Canada. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science / Revue canadienne des sciences du comportement, 51(1), 37-52. doi: 10.1037/cbs0000115

Mental Disorder Symptoms Among Public Safety Personnel in Canada (2018)

Full Publication

Lay Summary “Mental Disorder Symptoms among Public Safety Personnel in Canada

Canadian public safety personnel 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.

Carleton, R. N, Afifi, T. O., Turner, S., Tallieu, T., Duranceau, S., LeBouthillier, D. M., Sareen, J., Ricciardelli, R., MacPhee, R., Groll, D., Hozempa, K., Brunet, A., Weekes, J. R., Griffiths, C. T., Abrams, K. J., Jones, N. A., Beshai, S., Cramm, H. A., Dobson, K. S., Hatcher, S., Keane, T. M., Stewart, S. H., & Asmundson, G. J. G. (2017). Mental disorder symptoms among public safety personnel in Canada. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 63(1), 54-64. doi: 10.1177/0706743717723825

Anxiety-Related Psychopathology and Chronic Pain Comorbidity Among Public Safety Personnel (2018)

Full Publication

Lay Summary “A Brief Review of Anxiety-Related Psychopathology and Chronic Pain Comorbidity among Public Safety Personnel

Public safety personnel appear to be at risk for mental disorders and pain. The results indicated PSP who reported chronic pain were significantly more likely to screen positive for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, or alcohol use disorder. There were differences between PSP categories; but, the most consistent indications of coexistence were for chronic pain, PTSD, and major depressive disorder. Coexistence of chronic pain and mental disorders among PSP is prevalent. Health care providers should regularly assess PSP for both symptom domains.

Carleton, R. N., Afifi, T. O., Taillieu, T., Turner, S., El-Gabalawy, R., Sareen, J., & Asmundson, G. J. G. (2018). Anxiety-related psychopathology and chronic pain comorbidity among public safety personnel. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 55, 48-55. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2018.03.006

Chronic Pain Among Public Safety Personnel in Canada (2017)

Full Publication

Lay Summary “Chronic Pain among Public Safety Personnel in Canada

Public safety personnel were asked to evaluate their mental and physical wellbeing, including whether they were currently experiencing chronic pain. Survey results show that not only do Canadian PSP experience more chronic pain than the average Canadian, but experiencing chronic pain appears to be linked to experiencing a mental health disorder, such as PTSD, major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and alcohol use disorder.

Carleton, R. N., Afifi, T. O., Turner, S., Taillieu, T., El-Gabalawy, R., Sareen, J., & Asmundson, G. J. G. (2017). Chronic pain among public safety personnel in Canada. Canadian Journal of Pain, 1(1), 237-246. doi: 10.1080/24740527.2017.1410431

Peer Support and Crisis-Focused Psychological Intervention Programs in Canadian First Responders: Blue Paper (2016)

Full Publication

Executive Summary

There is an urgent need for more research on the effectiveness of peer support and crisis-focused psychological intervention programs designed to help public service personnel cope with work trauma. The operational stressors, which include death, violence, and threats to their own lives, put PSP at risk for psychological challenges, including post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, and anger. Such challenges can lead to other problems, such as substance abuse, relationship difficulties, and absenteeism.

Beshai, S., & Carleton, R. N. (2016). Peer support and crisis-focused psychological intervention programs in Canadian first responders: Blue Paper. Regina, SK: University of Regina Collaborative Centre for Justice and Safety. Available from: http://www.justiceandsafety.ca/rsu_docs/blue_paper_full_web_final_production_aug_16_2016.pdf