Why was the study done?
Public safety personnel (PSP), for example, municipal/provincial police, firefighters, paramedics, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, correctional workers, dispatchers, are routinely exposed to potentially psychologically traumatic events (PPTEs) and other occupational stressors which increases their risk for mental health challenges. There are many mental training programs available to PSP, including critical incident stress management (CISM), critical incident stress debriefing (CISD), peer support, mental health first aid, Road to Mental Readiness (R2MR). These exist to potentially minimize the impact of stressors on PSP. There is currently relatively little research informing the impact that several of these mental health training programs have on PSP, especially in terms of improving attitudes toward support and willingness to access supports among a specific group of PSP: Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) and Conservation and Protection (C&P) officers. The current study was designed to help address this gap.
What was done in the study?
Participants completed an online survey that assessed perceptions of support, experience with mental health training, and symptoms of mental health disorders. The current study was designed to:
- Assess the attitudes that CCG and C&P officers hold toward utilizing support from professionals (e.g., physicians, psychologists, psychiatrists, employee assistance programs, chaplains) and non-professionals (e.g., spouse, friends, colleagues, leadership) based on completion of different mental health training;
- Assess the the impact of different mental health training programs on the prevalence of mental health disorders among CCG and C&P officers;
- Assess the perceptions of CCG and C&P officers about the effectiveness of different mental health training; and,
- Inform decisions about which specific mental health training programs might be implemented to improve CCG and C&P officers’ attitudes toward support, and increase CCG and C&P officers’ willingness to access both professional and non-professional support.
What did we find out?
CCG and C&P officers reported having access to all types of professional and non-professional supports. Participants who received any training program indicated a higher willingness to access professional and non-professional supports as an early resource for mental health challenges compared to those with no training; however, willingness to access support varied based on the type of professional or non-professional. The same results were found for all types of mental health training. In the current study, CCG and C&P officers who received mental health training reported a lower prevalence of symptoms for all mental health disorders than officers who did not receive training. There were no differences between mental health training categories and decreased odds of showing symptoms of mental disorders. The results suggest that the different training categories likely yield comparable results and no one training program is superior to the others.
CCG and C&P officers described each type of mental health training (i.e., CISM, CISM, Mental Health First Aid, Peer Support, R2MR) as helpful for improving their mental health, improving the mental health of their team members, reducing stigma, mitigating mental health injuries, increasing their knowledge about mental health, and responding to members of the public who are having mental health problems. CCG and C&P officers perceive the available training programs as effective at achieving the program objectives.
Where do we go from here?
The current study shows comparable results for CCG and C&P officers who underwent varied mental health training programs. The results suggest a need to increase CCG and C&P officer’s willingness to access professional and non-professional support. Researchers can focus on decreasing the stigma surrounding mental health challenges and support-seeking for PSP, PSP spouses, friends, and healthcare professionals. Many mental health training programs appear helpful, but more work is needed to continuously improve the positive impact of training programs. Such continued efforts with supports for ongoing access to training may also help improve CCG and C&P officer attitudes toward support and willingness to access support.
The original wording of the study was changed and condensed for the current research summary.
Keywords: Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD); Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM); Mental Health First Aid; Peer Support; Road to Mental Readiness (R2MR); Posttraumatic Stress Injuries (PTSI); Occupational Stress Injuries (OSI); Public Safety Personnel (PSP).
Andrews KL, Jamshidi L, Nisbet J, Teckchandani TA, Price JAB, Ricciardelli R, Anderson GS, Carleton RN. Mental Health Training, Attitudes toward Support, and Screening Positive for Mental Disorders among Canadian Coast Guard and Conservation and Protection Officers. International Journal of Environmental Research. Public Health. 2022 Nov 26;19(23):15734. doi: 10.3390/ijerph192315734. PMID: 36497809; PMCID: PMC9739214.
Prepared by K. Harris