Title : Psychological impact of COVID-19 on public safety personnel
Public safety personnel (PSP), including but not limited to firefighters, paramedics, and public safety communicators (i.e., dispatch), are at increased risk of psychological injuries, heightened mental disorder symptoms, and suicidality (i.e., ideation, planning, attempts) because of their occupational exposures to potential psychologically traumatic events. The global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic introduces PSP to an even greater level of threat and uncertainty surrounding exposure and the risk of contracting the virus themselves in addition to spreading the infection to their household and professional network. The United Nations reported that the COVID-19 pandemic is not only compromising physical health, but is also increasing psychological suffering (United Nations, 2020). Identifying the additional contribution of COVID-19 to PSP mental disorder symptoms and ability to cope with occupational stressors are the primary aims of this study. Three hundred eighty-one Canadian firefighters, paramedics, and communicators completed an online survey between November 2020 and March 2021, that asked about their exposure and response (i.e., self-isolation) to COVID-19 and the impact of COVID-19 on their life at work and at home. The survey consisted of open-ended questions, questions concerning COVID-19 related operational stressors, and standardized screening tools for posttraumatic stress disorder (PCL-5), depression (PHQ-9), generalized anxiety (GAD-7), social phobia (SIPS), and Coping (Brief-COPE). It was hypothesized that those that responded in person and transported patients (paramedics) would have an exaggerated impact over those that responded and did not transport (firefighters) and those that had no external exposures at work (communicators). While this held true for depression, both public safety communicators (p=0.018) and paramedics (p<0.001) had a more dramatic increase in scores related to general anxiety (GAD-7). Greater increase in social anxiety (SIPS) scores for both public safety communicators (p=0.001) and paramedics (p<0.001) were found. Clear evidence was found for increased risk of mental health disorders in public safety professionals during the pandemic.
Audience Take Away:
- Clear evidence was found for increase psychological health risk in public safety professions during COVID.
- Females were generally more at risk than males.
- Leadership in response to COVID-19 are discussed