Public safety personnel – from firefighters and police officers to paramedics and correctional workers, among others – put themselves in harm’s way to keep our communities safe and the country secure. In the course of their daily work keeping communities safe, public safety personnel are repeatedly exposed to traumatic incidents, which can put them at risk for mental health impacts and severe psychological difficulties, known as post-traumatic stress injuries (PTSI).
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is supporting research to better understand, treat, and prevent PTSI in public safety occupations. With more research, we can better determine which policies, programs, and treatments will make the most difference for the mental wellness and resilience of people in public safety occupations.
This February, CIHR released the results of its PTSI Catalyst Grant competition, which will provide 22 one-year grants of up to $150,000, for a total investment of $2.95 million. These grants will serve as a springboard for researchers who are increasing our understanding of how to identify, treat, and prevent PTSI among public safety personnel.
CIHR also recently launched the Team Grants in PTSI competition, which represents a further investment of $8.4 million. This investment will support four-year research projects designed to develop the new research evidence and tools needed to address gaps in PTSI among public safety personnel in Canada. The results of this competition are expected to be available in March 2020.
Dr. Samuel Weiss, Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction, said the announcement emphasizes the incredible power of collaboration among ministries, the research community, CIHR, the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT), and stakeholder groups. “These investments will stimulate new scientific knowledge on PTSI, and create a national hub for knowledge exchange and coordination that will ultimately drive better mental health outcomes for Canada’s hard-working public safety personnel.”
CIPSRT will act as the national research consortium’s knowledge exchange hub, bringing together researchers funded through these CIHR competitions with all relevant stakeholders in order to coordinate activities and move the knowledge created into active use.
Canada’s Budget 2018 committed $20 million over five years to support a new national research consortium between CIHR and CIPSRT to address PTSI among public safety personnel.
The Canadian government is investing a further $10 million over five years, starting in 2018-19, for Public Safety Canada to work with CIPSRT to develop an Internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy pilot as a means of providing greater access to care and treatment for public safety officers.
In addition, the RCMP is taking another important step by investing $10 million in a longitudinal study of the mental health of new recruits. CIPSRT is conducting that work to monitor and track the real-life experiences of officers, and the accumulating consequences of those experiences, over a protracted period of time. The findings will not only help the Force develop appropriate mental wellness and remedial strategies, but also inform other emergency response organizations.
An Action Plan on Post-Traumatic Stress Injuries is scheduled to be released this spring.