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January 8, 2024

Glossary of Terms Version 3.0

Canadians working in essential public safety and healthcare professions face a much higher risk of suffering from mental health conditions such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), just by doing their jobs.1,2 We can help them, by understanding and appreciating the challenges that many of them experience. The Glossary of Terms 3.0, which defines 61 of the common words used to describe PTSD and related mental health conditions, is now available on the Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention in Canada journal’s website. This Glossary represents a vital step towards the development of a universally-shared understanding of many of the common definitions and descriptions used to describe psychological trauma. This is important, because how we use language matters. Beyond the immediate benefit of clearly understanding each other when we use standardized language with shared, agreed-upon definitions, the Glossary 3.0 has larger goals: to reduce stigma and prejudice, to increase access to evidence-based care, and to support ongoing improvements in the tools, training, and treatments that will benefit all Canadians.

In 2018, the Government of Canada passed the Federal Framework on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Act (the Act), to recognize that those who serve the Canadian public in the frontline professions (such as public safety personnel, healthcare providers, Canadian Armed Forces members, and Veterans) are routinely exposed to potentially psychologically traumatic events (PPTEs) and, subsequently, are at an increased risk for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and related mental health injuries.

The Act called for the creation of a Federal Framework on PTSD, and prompted the development of a Glossary of Terms to create easy-to-understand definitions of relevant terminology, for use by the delegates at a National Conference convened to begin development of the Federal Framework on PTSD. Because the delegates represented diverse communities which included clinicians, academics, government representatives, first responders, healthcare workers, and people with lived experience of trauma and other mental health conditions, the Glossary needed to facilitate understanding and productive discussions among this diverse group. Therefore, each term was described using a complementary general public definition and academic definition. Shortly after the National Conference on PTSD, the Glossary of Terms Version 2.0 was posted on the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment’s website, and was later updated (version 2.1) based on community feedback. The development of Glossary 3.0 began in 2021 and has resulted in the inclusion of 27 new terms, which reflect current and popular terminology used to describe trauma and its impacts. Given the far-reaching effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on all facets of the healthcare and public safety workforce, the focus of Glossary 3.0 was expanded to include healthcare professionals as well as serving Canadian Armed Forces members and Veterans, in addition to public safety personnel.

The creation of Glossary 3.0 has been led by a Senior Authors team, assisted by a pan-Canadian team of Contributors including academics, clinicians, community stakeholders, and people with lived experience of psychological trauma. Through many rounds of discussion with this multi-disciplinary team, new terms were identified for inclusion in Glossary 3.0, along with current terms requiring updated definitions. Importantly, an agreed-upon definition of Military Sexual Trauma (MST), was created jointly by the Glossary’s Senior Authors Team and Canada’s Department of National Defence Terminology Board after multiple rounds of stakeholder consultations and collaborative development, with people with lived experience of MST, and this definition appears for the first time in Glossary 3.0.

Version 3.0 marks the first version of the Glossary of Terms to be published in a peer-reviewed journal. The Senior Authors team encourages all individuals to consult Glossary 3.0, which can be found here, to collectively contribute to reducing stigma and fostering positive change for all those who, through their work on the frontlines, serve all Canadians.

For further information, or to provide comments/feedback on the Glossary, please contact:

  1. Carleton RN, Afifi TO, Turner S, et al. Mental disorder symptoms among public safety personnel in Canada. Can J Psychiatry. 2018;63(1):54-64.
  2. Stelnicki AM, Carleton RN, Reichert C. Nurses’ Mental Health and Well-Being: COVID-19 Impacts. Canadian Journal of Nursing Research. 2020;52(3):237-239. doi:1177/0844562120931623

As part of the National Research Consortium, CIPSRT serves as the Knowledge Exchange Hub for knowledge synthesis, translation, and exchange that relies upon the best contemporary research evidence supporting an overall mission to help current and former public safety personnel, their leaders, and their families to maintain and improve their mental health and wellbeing.

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