When the Helpers Need Help: Barriers to Care and Longitudinal Mental Health Outcomes Among Public Safety Personnel

Mota, Natalie | $130,050

Manitoba University of Manitoba 2021 CIHR Project Grant

People working as public safety personnel (PSP; e.g., firefighters, paramedics, police, corrections officers) experience many traumatic events on the job. As a result, posttraumatic stress injuries (PTSI) such as posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety, have also been found to be higher in PSP than in the general population. Most research in this area has relied on self-report questionnaires instead of measuring mental disorders using clinical diagnoses, has not looked at the mental health of PSP over time, and has rarely looked into the reasons why these individuals would not obtain mental healthcare or use coping strategies that might help prevent the development of a mental health problem. The proposed research will address these gaps by combining information from administrative health records with the collection of a new survey of two groups of PSP – firefighters and paramedics (FP) – in Winnipeg, Manitoba: Aim 1) Determine the FP who were diagnosed with a mental or substance use disorder, had a suicide attempt, or had a mental health-related Workers Compensation claim, and compare these numbers to a group of non-FP adults and to mental disorders in FP pre-COVID-19. Aim 2) Look at potential protective factors for mental disorders in FP, compared to a group of employed Winnipeg residents. Aim 3) Measure the amount of mental healthcare use among FP in the past year compared to a cohort of employed Winnipeg residents and identify barriers to care. This study will provide new information about the extent of mental disorders in FP, and therefore, can be used to advocate for more mental health resources for this population. Findings will also help the development of new programs and strategies to overcome the most common barriers to seeking mental healthcare in this population.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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