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Research Summaries

Suicidal Ideation, Planning, and Attempts among Canadian Coast Guard and Conservation and Protection Officers

Keywords: Coast Guard, Mental Health Disorders, Posttraumatic Stress Injury (PTSI), Public Safety Personnel (PSP), Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviours

Why was the study done?

Public safety personnel (PSP) are essential to maintain public safety and order. PSP-specific research to date has tended to focus on mental health challenges among police, firefighters, paramedics, nurses, and correctional workers, yet there is a limited understanding of such challenges among Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) and Conservation and Protection (C&P) officers. For example, might unique occupational stressors such as working in remote areas contribute to mental health challenges and suicidal behaviours (i.e., ideation, planning, attempts)? The current research is part of a wider study on the mental health of CCG and C&P, and is designed to address this gap by providing a baseline understanding of suicidal ideation, planning, and attempts.

What was done in the study?

The current study was designed to provide: 

  1. The prevalence of self-reported lifetime and past-year suicidal ideation, planning, and attempts among CCG and C&P officers; 
  2. A comparison of gender, sex, age, education, ethnicity, marital status, province of work, and previous professional experience and suicidal behaviours among CCG and C&P officers; and, 
  3. Any associations between suicidal thoughts and behaviours, and reported mental health challenges over the CCG and C&P officers’ lifetime and over the past year. 

What did we find out?

In line with the previously identified objectives, the researchers found: 

  1. CCG and C&P reported lifetime suicidal ideation, planning, and attempts were 25.7%, 10.5%, and 5.5%, respectively. Within the previous year, the percentage of suicidal ideation and planning were 7.5%, 2.1%, respectively, and less than five respondents reported suicide attempts; 
  2. CCG and C&P reported differences in past-year and lifetime suicidal ideation. Past-year and lifetime suicidal ideation was reported by 4.7% and 19.6% of C&P and 8.0% and 27.5% of CCG; 
  3. There were no statistically significant sociodemographic differences for the past-year reports; 
  4. There were statistically significant differences for age and suicidal ideation, province of residence and reports of lifetime suicide attempts;
  5. CCG and C&P with previous work experiences in the Canadian Armed Forces or a different PSP sector reported statistically significantly higher lifetime suicide attempts than those without such previous work experiences; 
  6. CCG and C&P officers reported statistically significant associations with symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder, and social anxiety disorder, and lifetime suicidal ideation, planning, and attempts; 
  7. There were statistically significant associations between symptoms of panic disorder and lifetime suicidal ideation and planning; 
  8. There were statistically significant associations between symptoms of major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder and previous-year suicidal ideation; and, 
  9. Positive screens for social anxiety disorder were statistically significantly associated with increased odds ratio of past-year suicidal planning. 

Where do we go from here?

CCG and C&P officers face unique working conditions within their roles and the current study helped to advance our understanding of these PSP sectors. Further research efforts are needed to help us understand what might be contributing to these differences; for example, age, sex, and work location, and how we can help alleviate workplace stressors for CCG and C&P officers. 

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


Original study: 

Nisbet, J., Jamshidi, L., Andrews, K. L., Teckchandani, T.A., Price, J.A.B., Ricciardelli, R., Anderson, G. S., & Carleton, R. N. (2022). Suicidal Ideation, Planning, and Attempts among Canadian Coast Guard and Conservation and Protection Officers. International Journal of Environmental Research. Public Health, 19, 16318. 

Prepared by K. Harris

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