Why was the study done?
In recent years, a wealth of research has revealed that public safety personnel (PSP) have a higher rate of mental health disorders than the general public. This higher rate may be linked to the trauma and stress they experience on the job. Many organizations use basic mental health interventions, and the number and variety of these interventions have increased in the last decade. However, there has been little focus on how these programs are implemented for PSP.
The current study reviewed studies that examined implementation strategies for the prevention and treatment of workplace mental health conditions in PSP.
What was done in the study?
The researchers searched for studies that examined PSP and reported on workplace mental health intervention implementation. The original search produced 62,229 articles, but once duplicates were removed and a detailed analysis was completed, the researchers were left with 89 studies published between 1979-2020 that looked at the topic of interest.
What did we find out?
- 64% of the studies were published in the last decade. While the studies were conducted across five continents, most were from western countries.
- The majority, 72%, looked at programs in police populations.
- The researchers found five common program focuses:
- occupational stress (most common at 50%);
- recognizing symptoms of mental health disorders;
- resilience of PSP;
- debriefing after exposure to traumatic events; and
- physical and emotional health.
- 45% of the programs were general programs that included a mental health component.
- Specific mental health programs featured education about sources of stress and strategies to be more mindful of emotions and reactions.
- Of the programs studied, 80% used training as the method for implementation, with group training sessions being the most common delivery method (70%).
- 73% of the interventions were delivered over multiple sessions.
Where do we go from here?
This study is limited by the available research, and did not look at the effectiveness of the interventions or implementation strategies used. However, some valuable insights did emerge. There was an apparent lack of diversity in implementation strategies with training as the most common method. The focus on training appears to position the problem with the PSP frontline rather than the workplace, which ignores the contributions of workplace culture. In addition, few of the programs targeted supervisors, even though it has been shown that increased knowledge of mental health issues in supervisors can increase confidence in speaking about mental health and reduce stigma. The study points to the need to diversify program content and implementation strategies. More research is needed to establish which programs and implementation strategies are most effective so that PSP get the full benefit of mental health prevention and treatment programs within the workplace.
The original wording of the study was changed and condensed for the current research summary.
Edgelow, M., Scholefield, E., McPherson, M., Mehta, S., & Ortlieb, A. (2021). A review of workplace mental health interventions and their implementation in public safety organizations. International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00420-021-01772-1
Summary prepared by Kossick, E. Edited and Reviewed by Barootes, B. & Edgelow, M.