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Research Summaries

Exposures to Potentially Psychologically Traumatic Events among Canadian Coast Guard and Conservation & Protection Officers

Keywords: Coast Guard, Critical Incident, Mental Disorders, Posttraumatic Stress Injury (PTSI), Public Service Personnel (PSP)

Why was the study done?

Public safety personnel (PSP), for example, municipal/provincial police, firefighters, paramedics, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, correctional workers, dispatchers, often report exposures to potentially psychologically traumatic events (PPTEs). Currently, there is relatively little research focused on a specific group of PSP: Canadian Coast Guard and Conservation and Protection (CCG and C&P) officers. There has been almost no research to understand the PPTE exposures CCG and C&P experience or the relationship between their PPTE exposures and mental health disorders. The current study was designed to help address these gaps in the literature.

What was done in the study?

CCG and C&P officers completed an online survey that assessed self-reported PPTE exposures, symptoms of mental health disorders, and sociodemographic information.

The current study was designed to assess the following:

  1. The lifetime prevalence of PPTE exposures among CCG and C&P officers;
  2. The PPTEs perceived by CCG and C&P officers as the worst;
  3. Relationships between lifetime PPTE exposures and screening positive for diverse mental health disorders; and,
  4. PPTE exposures frequently experienced across sociodemographic categories.

What did we find out?

CCG and C&P officers reported higher lifetime prevalence of PPTE exposures than the general population, but lower prevalence than other Canadian PSP. The PPTEs that were reported most frequently by CCG and C&P officers were serious transportation accident (77.4%), serious accident at work, home, or during a recreational activity (69.7%), and physical assault (69.4%). C&P members also reported exposures to life threatening disasters (74.8%) and assault with a weapon (74.8%). CCG members reported serious transport accident as their worst PPTE, whereas C&P members reported sudden violent death as their worst PPTE. The group differences could be due to differences in occupational duties between CCG and C&P members. Several PPTE types were associated with increased odds of screening positive for mental health disorders (i.e., posttraumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder, general anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and alcohol use disorder). Some sociodemographic differences in PPTE exposures were observed based on sex, gender, age, and previous work experience. The results provide preliminary information describing PPTE exposures of CCG and C&P officers. The results also support the growing body of evidence that PPTEs are more frequent and varied among PSP and can be associated with diverse mental health disorders.

Where do we go from here?

The current article presents evidence of PPTE exposures of CCG and C&P officers and has the potential to generalize to other national coast guard groups and PSP populations. Understanding the diverse PPTE experiences of CCG and C&P officers that might lead to mental health challenges gives researchers opportunities to provide important insights that can inform various efforts to protect CCG and C&P officers’ mental health and extend their years of service. The associations found between PPTE exposures and mental health disorders suggest a need for continual mental health training and support to mitigate the impact of that routine job duties can have on CCG and C&P officers’ mental health, particularly when serving in remote or isolated locations.

 

The original wording of the study was changed and condensed for the current research summary.

Keywords: Public Service Personnel (PSP); Posttraumatic Stress Injury (PTSI); critical incident; mental disorders.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE

Original study:

Andrews, K. L., Jamshidi, L., Nisbet, J., Teckchandani, T. A., Price, J. A. B., Ricciardelli, R., Anderson, G. S., et al. (2022). Exposures to Potentially Psychologically Traumatic Events among Canadian Coast Guard and Conservation and Protection Officers. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(22), 15116. MDPI AG. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ijerph192215116.

Prepared by K. Harris

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