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August 23, 2020

CIHR launches new Team Grants: Mental Wellness in Public Safety competition

Successful applications at the LOI stage have now been posted: The Canadian Institute of Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT) will work with the researchers funded by CIHR in this funding opportunity to facilitate high quality research dissemination and knowledge translation as part of its role as the Knowledge Exchange Hub for the CIHR-CIPSRT National Research Consortium for Post-traumatic Stress Injuries among Public Safety Personnel.

Program Name: Team Grant: Mental Wellness in Public Safety Team Grants

Deadline: March 19, 2019 (Letter of Intent) / November 5, 2019 (Full Application)

For more information on the National Research Consortium, visit the CIHR-CIPSRT Consortium page.

Team Grant Description

A key responsibility of Canada’s Federal government is ensuring Canadians are safe and protected. Public safety personnel (PSP) are the backbone of the broad and multi-sectoral system which maintains public safety. PSP include, but are not limited to, first responders, such as firefighters, police, and paramedics; search and rescue volunteers; correctional services officers; border services officers; operational intelligence analysts; Indigenous emergency managers; and others.

The large bulk of PSP engage in prevention and response work to protect Canadians from a spectrum of threats and to provide assistance during emergencies, often at great personal risk. In doing so, they can work in hazardous and unpredictable environments, and are often more likely to witness and experience traumatic or disturbing situations than the general population. This can present a host of challenges to their physical and mental health, and social well-being. Central among these challenges are post-traumatic stress injuries (PTSI), which refer to a broad set of persistent psychological difficulties including those resulting from operational duties performed as PSP (also known as operational stress injuries). Extending beyond clinically diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), PTSI can also include substance use, anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.

Previous research has indicated that women are more likely to develop PTSD, even though men are more likely to live through potentially traumatic events. Nevertheless, many earlier studies focused largely or exclusively on men, creating a knowledge gap that persists for PTSI research. Given the growing numbers of women PSP, there is a need for PTSI research that appropriately integrates sex as a biological variable and gender as a social determinant of health.

Although much of the research in PTSI has focused primarily on military and veteran populations to date, there is growing awareness of the incidence of PTSI among PSP. While PSP face similar traumatic experiences as military personnel, the unique circumstances in which they undertake their duties can have a significant impact on their wellbeing. For example, unlike military personnel who may be afforded breaks between deployment periods, PSP are continually deployed within their own communities, increasing the likelihood that they will be exposed to traumatic situations, sometimes involving someone they know, without interventions to prevent future health issues. When PSP experience stress- and trauma-related psychological difficulties, their ability to function at the individual and professional level may be compromised (presenteeism). Both public safety and health stakeholders have identified a need for additional research in this area to ensure the mental health risks associated with carrying out public safety work are well understood and resources are effectively deployed to ensure PSP well-being.

The National Research Consortium for PTSI among PSP is a joint initiative between CIHR and CIPSRT announced in the 2018 federal budget. The consortium represents a $20 million federal investment over five years to support research and knowledge translation activities in core areas of research expertise and strategic importance related to PSP mental health.

To fulfill this federal commitment and build on previous investments in PTSD and PTSI research, CIHR is launching the Mental Wellness in Public Safety Team Grants funding opportunity, to support the development of new research evidence and tools needed to address existing and emerging gaps in PTSI as it relates to PSP in Canada. As part of the consortium, researchers funded by CIHR through this initiative will work with CIPSRT who will serve as the consortium’s national hub for coordination and knowledge translation. This could include, for example, participating in CIPSRT-led knowledge translation activities.

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