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An augmented training program for preventing posttraumatic stress injuries among diverse public safety personnel

Keywords: Mental Health Training


Exposure to potentially traumatic events (PTE) in the workplace is common in public safety personnel (PSP). Even with many groups offering solutions to build resiliency, there is little evidence that the currently offered programs are effective. The PSP PTSI Study is designed to test several variables thought to be associated with mental health risk and resilience.

The PSP PTSI Study is a global first and is designed to investigate PTSI including, but not limited to, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, among frontline PSP sectors including firefighters, paramedics, municipal police, and public safety communicators.  The research is based on extending the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Longitudinal Post-Traumatic Stress (PTSD) study (i.e., RCMP Study;  The RCMP Study tools will be provided to participating PSP to answer the question, “Does administering a broadly tailored version of the cognitive behavioural tools from the RCMP Study help to protect diverse frontline PSP mental health?”

The PSP PTSI Study is a three-year project designed to support the health and resilience of PSP by deploying and improving a set of tools to identify symptoms of mental health injuries early.  The Study will provide early access to evidence-based care, and to help manage stress. The PSP PTSI Study is also designed to provide recommendations for better assessment, treatment, and management of mental health injuries.  The PSP PTSI Study includes: 1) adapting the Emotional Resilience Training (ERST) and mental health support infrastructure designed for the RCMP to accommodate diverse PSP; 2) pilot-testing the adapted training and infrastructure; 3) obtaining feedback from the PSP and their leadership for further adaptations; and 4) improving our understanding of the interactions between mental health, self-reported determinants of health (e.g., different stressors), physiological data, self-reported mental health symptoms, and clinical data.

There will be approximately 200 participants in the study.  Participants include approximately 50 Public Safety Communicators, 50 Paramedics, 50 Police Service, and 50 Firefighters. Some PSP from each sector will also be able to participate in focus groups and interviews to provide additional feedback. The PSP PTSI Study will also include 5 PSP Leaders participating from each of the four sectors.

The PSP PTSI Study has four key stages: pre-training assessments, 13 weeks of of Emotional Resilience Skills Training (ERST) (1 hour weekly), post-training assessments, and follow-up assessments one year after training.  The confidential Full Mental Health assessments include online surveys and confidential interviews, all independent of the PSP agencies.  The surveys help PSP and the research team review, access, and understand individual life experiences and coping skills, among other variables.

Participating PSP can use a mobile app to complete short daily surveys (approximately 1 minute) and monthly surveys (approximately 22 minutes) that help to build a record of their experiences and mental health over time.  Participating PSP are also provided with a state-of-the-art device used to monitor their heart activity for 1-2 minutes a day while relaxing. We are hoping data from the device will eventually provide the first-ever biological indicator of mental health injury to provide early indications.


Interview with the Team

Are there any additional questions or challenges that your research might help to address?

The PSP PTSI Study should help with several research questions including, but not limited to, 1) logistical challenges and opportunities associated with deploying a large-scale assessment and training solution for diverse PSP; 2) how environmental factors, individual differences (i.e., demographics, measurements of biometrics, mental health, personality variables, social experiences), and occupational stressors interact with PTSI for PSP; 3) identifying associations between PTSI and each of biological, psychological, and experiential variables that can improve proactive interventions and training; and 4) informing tailoring of assessments, treatments, and programming for PSP, military, veterans, and others at risk for PPTE exposures (e.g., nurses).

What is exciting about your work for the PSP community? For example, how will your results help PSP frontline workers? PSP families? PSP leaders?

The PSP PTSI Study is a terrific opportunity for 200 PSP and their leaders to help develop and assess a broad set of tools and training tailored specifically to help PSP manage PTSI. We expect participants will directly benefit from the training through improved mental health and well-being. We also expect participants will benefit from the tools such as surveys, clinical interviews, and physiological monitoring, all of which will provide important information helping them to take control of their mental health. We believe the tools will help PSP to seek care faster and to improve more quickly thanks to being better able to understand and navigate their care needs. PSP who are participating in the PSP PTSI Study are helping to lead the world in innovative research designed to improve PSP mental health. Together, we can improve PSP mental health and sustain healthier and most resilient PSP, which also benefits their families, their leaders, and their communities.

When do you expect to have results to share with the PSP community?

We are hoping to have initial results ready for release by late 2022.

Where can PSP go to learn more about your study or, if applicable, to participate?

Please visit us at

Is there anything else you would like to share with the PSP community about your research?

We are very excited about the opportunities offered by the current project. If we are successful, the project will have built a scalable model for providing ongoing evidence-based assessments and training for everyone who is regularly exposed to potentially psychologically traumatic events (e.g., PSP, military, healthcare workers), and in doing so, provide unprecedented opportunities for helping people to access evidence-based treatments. The research results may also provide critical insights for understanding how to improve assessments, treatments, and training for all Canadians.

Research Team

Dr. R. Nicholas Carleton, principal investigator, is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Regina and the Scientific Director for the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT).  Carleton is a registered clinical psychologist in Saskatchewan with extensive experience providing evidence-based treatments for PSP.

Co-investigators (Alphabetically): Afifi, T. O., Anderson, G. S., Andrews, K., Asmundson, G. J. G., Beshai, S., Camp, R., Cramm, H., Ferguson, M., Fletcher, A., Jamshidi, L., Jones, N. A., Krätzig, G., Lix, L., MacDermid, J., MacPhee, R. S., Maguire, K., Martin, R., McCarron, M., Neary, J. P., Nisbet, J., Ricciardelli, R., Sauer-Zavala, S., Shields, R. E.

Knowledge Users (Alphabetically): Digney, K., Luciak, K., Milo, D., Perchie, Gl, Pritchard, M., Pittman, M., Rae, D., Robertson, L., Sundeen, N., Ward, C.

PSP Trainers (Alphabetically): Brandauer, C., Earl, J., Frei, T., Gabriel, A., Gifford, K., Hedlin J., Hemsworth, A., Kolybaba L., Marshall, L., Onyskevitch, B., Wolbaum, C.

PSP Agencies (Alphabetically): Association of Public Safety Communication Officials, Frontenac Paramedic Services, Ottawa Paramedic Service, Paramedic Services Chiefs of Saskatchewan, Peterborough County-City Paramedics, Regina Fire and Protective Services, Saskatchewan Federation of Police Officers, Saskatchewan Health Authority

Supporting Team Members (Alphabetically): Kelly J. Abrams, Seerat Bassi, Chris Beckett, Jonathan Burry, Krysten Forbes, Lis Hansen, Xiaoqian Huang, Maria Kamil, Donna King, Caeleigh Landry, Jordan MacNeil, Akiff Maredia, Megan Milani, Sara Moradizadeh, Obimma Onuegbu, Mikhail Shchukin, Shubham Sharma, Susan Sutherland, Preeti Tyagi, and Keyur Variya.

Presentation Video

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