Laurier Professor Leads Research into the Mental Health of Paramedics and Safety Workers

Health Sciences Prof Joins Pan-Provincial Network Studying Mental Health Disorders blog header
Health Sciences Prof Joins Pan-Provincial Network Studying Mental Health Disorders blog header

Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT) is Working to Lower Risk of Mental Disorders Among Safety Workers

A recent national survey published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry indicates that 44.5% of emergency workers in Canada are at risk of developing mental health disorders. This is more than four times the percentage in the general population, which is only 10.1% according to StatsCan. Wilfrid Laurier University’s Associate Professor Renée MacPhee is part of a new national network, CIPSRT, dedicated towards lowering that risk among safety workers.

Renée MacPhee, who is in Laurier’s Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education with a cross-appointment to the Health Sciences Department, has worked with paramedics for over two decades. As an associate director with CIPSRT, MacPhee will lead the organization’s research to explore how to reduce mental health risks and make a positive impact on the lives of paramedics and safety workers.

Safety workers experience very high rates of exposure to human suffering and often feel responsible for it, which can result in increased stress. CBC News reports that the survey results show that paramedics, in particular, are among the groups reporting greater risk for experiencing alcohol use disorders, general anxiety and highest risk of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.

Greater understanding of the mental health stress faced by safety workers is needed as well as the availability and support of its treatment. To help accomplish this, Ontario legislation passed in 2016 ensures that first responders receive workplace insurance coverage, and provincial legislators across Canada are working to extend coverage in every province.

CIPSRT is dedicated to helping public safety personnel. The network's national perspective helps to ensure that policy makers, healthcare professionals share knowledge with a view to develop adequate resources to improve mental health in the safety worker community. MacPhee indicates that the stresses associated with public safety work done by safety workers in different parts of the country are unique. With better understanding of the mental health disorders faced by paramedics and other safety workers, the supports they need can be foreseen, planned for and provided.

Additional career options and leadership opportunities are being developed for paramedics and other safety workers too. Laurier offers an online Master of Public Safety with an Emergency Management specialization that can assist in opening the door to new opportunities for safety workers.

Sources: The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry - Mental Disorder Symptoms among Public Safety Personnel in Canada