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Research Summaries

Paramedics and mental health disorders at one Canadian site

Keywords: Anxiety, Depression, Mental Disorders, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Why was the study done?

Research has shown that emergency medical services (EMS) and paramedic personnel have increased rates of mental health disorder symptoms. This research has led to an increase in resiliency training programs in many EMS and paramedic organizations. However, there is not a lot of evidence to support the benefits of these resiliency training programs.

The current study was designed to:

  • estimate the proportion of mental health disorder symptoms in a single, large, urban, paramedic service;
  • explore the relationship between self-reported resilience and the risk of positive screens for mental health disorder symptoms.

What was done in the study?

Data collection for the study was completed before the COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers distributed the survey in person to over 600 paramedics during continuing medical education days from Sept 2019 to Feb 2020 at the Peel Regional Paramedic Services in Ontario. Paramedics who were on leave were not eligible to complete the survey. A total of 589 paramedics (97% of those eligible) completed the survey which included a demographics questionnaire and self-report measures of resilience, PTSD, Depression and Anxiety. Peel Regional Paramedics services has used the Road to Mental Readiness for First Responders program since 2017 (now the Working Mind for First Responders program).

What did we find out?

  • The majority of participants were men (60.1%) with an average age of 34.58 and average 9.3 years on the job.
  • The majority were married or living common-law (59.1%). 49.2% had completed a college diploma, and 67.7% had the primary care paramedic certification.
  • Women surveyed were on average younger, had less on the job experience, were more likely to have completed an undergraduate degree, but were less likely to practice at the advanced primary care paramedic certification.
  • On average, participants displayed a “normal” level of resilience, with only 10.6% meeting the criteria for “low” resilience.
  • Participants self-report measures of mental disorder symptoms showed that:
    • 2% screened positive for PTSD;
    • 4% screened positive for Depression;
    • 7% screened positive for Anxiety; and
    • 4% screened positive for one of the three.
  • More women screened positive for Depression and Anxiety and fewer for PTSD.
  • Those working full-time had more positive screens for PTSD, Depression, and Anxiety.
  • Those with the primary care paramedic certification had higher resiliency scores.
  • Those with “low” self-reported resilience had a higher risk of screening positive for PTSD, Depression, and Anxiety.
  • Those that served as peer supporters had an increased risk of PTSD and Depression positive screens.

Where do we go from here?

The results of the current study support previous research which showed that mental health disorder symptoms are higher in paramedics than the general population. However, the levels seen in this study of one Canadian site are lower than those found in other national surveys. It is possible that there is a benefit to surveying a larger proportion of a group, which may lower the chance for self-selection bias. However, those excluded from eligibility in the current study were those on leave, meaning it’s possible some of those members might be on leave for reasons related to mental health. The current study also found a relationship between “low” resilience and increased risk for mental health disorder symptoms.   In addition researchers found that in the small number of participants that identified as peer supporters there were higher rates of mental disorder symptoms. These findings indicate that more research should be done on the impacts of resilience and working as a peer supporter.

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

Original Study

Mausz, J., Donnelly, E.A., Moll, S., Harms, S., & McConnell, M. (2022). Mental disorder symptoms and the relationship with resilience among paramedics in a single Canadian site. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 19, 4879.

Prepared by Kossick, E. Reviewed and edited by Barootes, B. & Mausz, J.

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