Why was the study done?
Public safety personnel (PSP) have elevated rates of mental health disorders. Because of the nature of their work, they can face barriers (stigma, access, cost) to getting mental health care. There is a growing interest amongst PSP about the use of internet-delivered cognitive behavioural therapy (ICBT). ICBT is effective in treating anxiety, mood, and trauma-related disorders. ICBT can be offered in a therapist-supported or self-guided format. ICBT is also private, accessible at any time or location, and cost-effective, eliminating many common barriers to treatment.
PSPNET has developed a tailored ICBT program for Canadian PSP with promising initial outcomes. However, little is known about why PSP seek ICBT. The current study will explore responses from prospective PSPNET clients to determine:
- What occupational sectors do they come from? What personal characteristics (e.g., age, gender) do they report?
- How did they hear about PSPNET?
- How do they perceive ICBT?
- What motivated them to seek ICBT?
- What is the nature of their clinical concerns?
- What previous treatments have they used?
What was done in the study?
Participants were 259 PSP from Saskatchewan and Quebec who signed up for PSPNET from December 2019 to March 2021. Participants answered questions about their symptoms of mental health disorders, current functioning, expectations of ICBT, and previous mental health service usage. They were also asked how they heard about PSPNET and why they sought PSPNET’s ICBT services.
What did we find out?
- The average age of participants was 40.2 years, and the balance between men and women was fairly equal, with women making up 51.4% of participants.
- Participants were from all sectors, but the bulk (74%) came from police, paramedics, and corrections.
- 6% of participants indicated they had heard about PSPNET through an employer, union, work colleague, or professional association.
- On average, participants expected a 55% improvement in symptoms with ICBT and reported feeling that ICBT would be “somewhat effective” to “very effective”.
- The majority of participants (74.1%) reported multiple reasons for trying ICBT. The top three reasons were:
- I heard about it and wanted to try it (49.8%)
- Wanting to learn to manage symptoms independently (47.1%)
- The convenience of ICBT (42.5%)
- Most participants (52.5%) reported previously consulting a healthcare or mental health care professional.
- The vast majority (84.7%) of participants screened positive for at least one mental health disorder, with 65.8% screening positive for two or more. The three most common types of symptoms in the clinically significant range were depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
Where do we go from here?
This study has limitations, the most obvious being that feedback is limited to those that signed up for PSPNET. There were also only participants from the two provinces where PSPNET was offered during the study. However, there are some valuable insights. They include:
- Partnerships with PSP organizations may be helpful to facilitate ICBT use;
- prospective PSP clients wanted to learn to manage their problems, suggesting that skills-based or resilience-based treatment approaches are a good idea with PSP; and
- most reported elevated symptoms of mental health disorders even with previous treatment, which means PSP may require specialized care.
The original wording of the study was changed and condensed for the current research summary.
McCall, H.C., Landry, C.A., Ogunade, A., Carleton, R.N., & Hadjistavropoulos. (2021). Why do public safety personnel seek tailored internet-delivered cognitive behavioural therapy? An observational study of treatment seekers. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18, 11972. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph182211972
Summary prepared by Kossick, E. Reviewed & edited by Barootes, B. & McCall, H.