Olena Gryshchuk, Dr. Mary Ann Campbell, and Dr. Caroline Brunelle
Department of Psychology, University of New Brunswick
Centre for Criminal Justice Studies, University of New Brunswick
Susceptibility to mental illness associated with first responders’ occupational (work context), operational (duty-related) and personal stressors is of significant concern. To better understand these relationships, 199 Canadian first responders (police/firefighters/civilian staff/dispatcher operators) completed a wellness survey containing validated self-report measures of psychological wellness (e.g., depression, PTSD) and organizational stress, and a checklist to capture operational and personal stressors. As many as 26.4% exceeded the threshold for PTSD and 24.4% had risky alcohol use. No differences emerged between employee groups on wellness or organizational stress. Hierarchical regressions found that, after controlling for demographics/employment role (Block 1), both personal stressors/operational critical incidents (Block 2) and organizational stressors (Block 3) significantly predicted elevated symptoms of PTSD, depression, anxiety, anger, and sleep problems. Occupational stress was not predictive of alcohol misuse beyond the preceding blocks but predicted suicidal ideation. Although critical incidents receive warranted attention as a clinical consideration for first responder employees, the current findings highlight the importance of appraising organizational stressors as well. Wellness resources should be instituted to mitigate these organizational challenges.