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Research Summaries

Mental Health Disorder Symptoms among Canadian Coast Guard and Conservation & Protection Officers

Keywords: Coast Guard, Mental Health, Occupational Stressors, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Posttraumatic Stress Injury (PTSI), Public Safety Personnel (PSP)

Why was the study done?

Public safety personnel (PSP) in Canada, for example, municipal/provincial police, firefighters, paramedics, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, correctional workers, dispatchers, screen positive for one or more mental health disorders based on self-reported symptoms at a prevalence much greater than the general public (44.5% and 10.1% respectively). Potentially psychologically traumatic event (PPTE) exposures and occupational stressors, such as serious transport accidents or physical assault on the job, increase the risk of developing mental health disorder symptoms. The current study was designed to estimate the prevalence of mental health disorders among a unique group of PSP: Canadian Coast Guard and Conservation and Protection (CCG and C&P) officers.

What was done in the study?

CCG and C&P officers completed an online survey where participants reported on current mental health disorder symptoms using clinically validated screening measures. Mental health disorders included posttraumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, alcohol use disorder. The current study was designed to:

  1. Provide the prevalence of positive screenings for mental health disorders among CCG and C&P officers;
  2. Enable explicit comparisons between CCG and C&P officers, the general population, and other Canadian PSP; and,
  3. Enable an examination of the differences across sociodemographic categories, including sex differences.

What did we find out?

The current results provide the first known information describing the prevalence of current mental health disorder symptoms and subsequent positive screenings of CCG and C&P Officers. First, the study found evidence that CCG and C&P officers reported a higher prevalence of positive screenings for one or more mental health disorder than the general population, but a prevalence similar to other PSP. The results highlight the importance of including CCG and C&P officers as PSP when conducting research and applying treatments. Second, CCG and C&P officers reported lower PTSD symptoms than PSP, but higher social anxiety disorder symptoms. CCG and C&P officers reported greater social anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder symptom scores overall. The differences could be due to varying operational needs for CCG and C&P officers. For example, working in isolation on ships or in remote locations. Third, females reported higher anxiety-based mental health disorder symptoms than males. The current results provide insight into the mental health challenges facing CCG and C&P officers and can inform efforts to mitigate and manage PTSI among this unique PSP group.

Where do we go from here?

Ongoing efforts are needed to protect CCG and C&P officers’ mental health. The efforts might include mitigating the impacts that risk factors including PPTEs and operational and organizational stressors may have on personnel. Intervention strategies and training may help reduce the harmful effects of PPTEs and prevalence of operational stress injuries.

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

Keywords: mental health; public safety personnel (PSP); post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI); occupational stressors.


Original study:

Andrews KL, Jamshidi L, Nisbet J, Teckchandani TA, Price JAB, Ricciardelli R, Anderson GS, Carleton RN. Mental Health Disorder Symptoms among Canadian Coast Guard and Conservation and Protection Officers. International Journal of Environmental Research. Public Health. 2022 Nov 25;19(23):15696. doi: 10.3390/ijerph192315696. PMID: 36497767; PMCID: PMC9741097.

Prepared by K. Harris

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