The negative effects of potentially psychologically traumatic events (PPTE) experienced by public safety personnel (PSP) can spill over into their family lives. While it is acknowledged that Posttraumatic Stress Injuries (PTSI) affects everyone within a family system, there is little research available on PSP family members, whether they be spouse/partner, child, parent, or sibling, regardless of sex or gender. Given the limited research around PSP families, we are building foundation knowledge about PSP families and how they are shaped by the risks and requirements of being “on the job”, including lifestyle dimensions like shift work.
The overall goal of the project is to improve mental wellness for PSP families, lessening the impact of PTSI by building essential capacity in PSP family research that enables the development of family-inclusive programming and informs how PSP organizations can address and engage PSP families.
In the PSP partner sectors (i.e., communications, corrections, fire, police, paramedic), the specific objectives are to:
- Identify and analyze existing public safety sector organizational supports, services, and policies related to families and mental wellness, along with community-based supports and models;
- investigate the experiences and needs of PSP families, in particular how they manage the impacts of occupational trauma and PTSI as well as PSP lifestyle dimensions;
- identify priorities for and recommendations to address family mental wellness and PTSI support within and across public safety sectors that are grounded in legislative and regulatory contexts; and
- develop family-focused resources.
Interview with the research team
Are there any additional questions or challenges that your research might help to address?
Family-centred research carries with it some complexities. For example, when we try to understand family wellbeing, whose voice is captured? We can’t build a fulsome understanding by listening to only one perspective. We need to engage with family members who are not PSP about the ways in which being “on the job” affects the family, and also hear from PSP about their perceptions about how the job impacts their families. We are learning so much about PSP families, but, with every step of the project, it seems like we have 10 new questions!
What is exciting about your work for the PSP community? For example, how will your results help PSP frontline workers? PSP families? PSP leaders?
Many of us have worked as researchers within the military and veteran family space for many years. It’s been exciting to see how that work has created a bit of a launching pad for us; because of the work we did there, we have a sense of what is and isn’t yet known, and just how complicated family systems are. We are building the foundations for what we envision as an ecosystem of prevention and support for PSP families. Through our research, we are looking at bridging the gap between research, practice, and policy, to ensure that what we do matters and has impact for PSP families.
When do you expect to have results to share with the PSP community?
We are working on a few things now – a series of reviews and an environmental scan of supports and services for PSP families. We have posted information about what we are currently doing and what’s next and upcoming on the Families Matter Research Group website.
Where can PSP go to learn more about your study or, if applicable, to participate? For example, do you have a website?
We continue to grow our online presence. Through both our social media and website content, we will share knowledge through tools, resource and organization links focused on families, as well as highlight research currently underway and future projects. Currently, we can be found Twitter @families_rsch, and on Facebook our page is Families Matter Research Group. In addition, we expect the website www.fmrg.ca to be operational by January 27, 2022.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the PSP community about your research?
Our research group is connected to these issues on a personal level. Many of us have had parents or spouses who have served in these roles; we take a real service-oriented approach to our role as researchers.
Heidi Cramm, Associate Professor of Rehabilitation Therapy at Queen’s University; Alyson Mahar, Assistant Professor of Health Sciences at University of Manitoba; Deborah Norris, Professor of Family Studies at Mount Saint Vincent University; Joy McDermid, Professor of Physical Therapy at Western University.
Our team has co-investigators who have been dedicated to research across public safety sectors, including Drs. Nick Carleton (University of Regina), Rose Ricciardelli (Memorial University of Newfoundland), Stephen Czarnuch (Memorial University of Newfoundland), Renee MacPhee (Wilfrid Laurier University), Greg Anderson (Thompson Rivers University), Christine Genest (Université de Montréal), Margaret MacKinnon (McMaster University), Ruth Lanius (Western University), and Linna Tam-Seto (McMaster University). International collaborators include acclaimed researchers who have focused on the health and wellbeing of families of military, veterans, and public safety personnel: Dr. Rachel Dekel (Bar-Ilan University), Prof. Nicola Fear (King’s College London), Dr. Rachael Gribble (King’s College London), and Dr. Patricia Lester (UCLA).
Our team includes a doctoral trainee, Rachel Richmond, and a post-doctoral fellow, Dr. Janette Leroux, who is on leave.