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April 27, 2022

CIPSRT partners with clinicians to answer some tough questions about the opioid crisis

The opioid crisis continues to grow in Canada. The recent COVID-19 pandemic in reported to have exacerbated an already difficult situation, and Public Safety Personnel (PSP) are on the frontline, responding to the crisis. The Canadian Institute of Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT) has partnered with clinicians from the Wayfound Mental Health group to answer PSP questions about how the opioid crisis impacts their mental health in the video “Ask a clinician: How can PSP deal with the opioid crisis?”

Driven by conversations with PSP, CIPSRT realized that many PSP struggle with the mental health impacts of opioid-related calls. PSP – facing an increasing number of calls, repeat calls, or calls involving children – reported the opioid crisis is straining their mental health.

“We tend to think about work stress as the big incidents like fires, car wrecks etc. but we can also be affected by the stress of many smaller incidents such as OD calls. Even though OD calls may seem routine or less stressful, due to the increasing number of OD calls the stress can add up quickly. This can cause negative mental health effects including a lack of empathy for OD patients. This is why it is important to pay attention and understand our mental health, so that we can continue to be healthy and able to provide the proper care to these patients,” said Regina Firefighter Todd Frei.

Firefighter Frei shared the concerns he heard most often from his co-workers, such as:

  • What do we do with a patient that is mad at us for ruining their high?
  • How do we deal with seeing kids of the drug user running around uncared for?
  • How do we stop feeling helpless? It seems like no matter how many times we save this patient, we’ll be back tomorrow or the next week to save this patient again.

To find answers, CIPSRT reached out to the Chair of CIPSRT’s clinical sub-committee, Dr. Megan McElheran. Dr. McElheran specializes in providing clinical support to PSP.  In order to share Dr. McElheran’s expertise with all PSP, CIPSRT developed the video.

“I am very proud to partner with the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment on this initiative as the need for varied and effective psychological supports for public safety personnel is significant,” said Dr. McElheran, “It is essential that public safety personnel understand that the work they do can be impactful to their mental wellness and that there are things they can do to take care of themselves, including learning about operational stress, finding helpful social and professional supports and normalizing the difficulties of their work.”

CIPSRT expanded the project to include Superintendent Francois Lalonde from the Ottawa Paramedic Service and Camille Charbonneau from Wayfound Mental Health group to ensure the video could be available in French and English. Click on the links below to view the video.

English Video

French Video

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