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By Costa Maragos Posted: April 13, 2018 10:30 a.m.

Dr. Nick Carleton, Professor in the Department of Psychology, is leading a pan-Canadian research team to address first responders’ and public safety personnel’s mental health concerns.
Dr. Nick Carleton, Professor in the Department of Psychology, is leading a pan-Canadian research team to address first responders’ and public safety personnel’s mental health concerns. U of R Photography

As part of his research, Dr. Nick Carleton has heard the stories of the despair and stress suffered by public safety personnel while in the line of duty.

Carleton, Professor in the Department of Psychology, is one of Canada’s foremost experts on the mental health of public safety personnel.

The Humboldt Broncos tragedy highlights the need for appropriate and timely services for those working on the front lines of traumatic events. Carleton is leading a pan-Canadian multidisciplinary, multiuniversity team with the U of R’s Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT) that is addressing the state of the mental health of public safety personnel.
 
Nick, what thoughts did you have - for the first responders - after realizing the extent of this tragedy?

After my initial reactions and concerns for those involved and their families, I was also concerned for the mental and physical safety of the first responders and other public safety personnel - including the many volunteers - who would be tasked with managing the tragedy.

What impact can a traumatic event have on public safety personnel?

There are many possibilities. Common reactions include distress, sadness, anxiety, and grief, among others, all of which can be normal responses to tragedies. In some cases, people experience few or no symptoms, or recover extremely rapidly; in other cases recovery can take days, weeks, or longer. There is also evidence that some may go on to develop symptoms consistent with one or more different mental health disorders or injuries.

What do you suggest people who were at the accident site do to deal with what they witnessed?

I think right now people need to support the natural recovery process by engaging in good self-care; specifically, spending time with loved ones, exercising, eating healthily, getting quality sleep, seeking positive entertainment, minimizing consumption of alcohol or drugs, and in particular talking with people they trust. No one should be forced to engage in conversations, though, or be forced to be silent. If someone feels very distressed, they may want to consider talking to a trained peer supporter, a chaplain, or an accredited mental health professional.

Yet the research you and your team have conducted suggest some public safety personnel hesitate to seek treatment because of the stigma attached to that. What has to happen to alter that view?

I think we are starting to see a major shift in the stigma and in how people, including those working in public safety, engage with mental health. We have seen resources made available to support public safety personnel mental health, certainly from their executives and associations, but we have also seen an outpouring of support offers from across the country and around the world, focused on the mental health of all persons involved in the tragedy. I like to think all of these activities represent real evidence of change, but stigma may still influence whether those resources and supports are engaged, because changing entrenched stigma and behaviours can take a very long time.

You are leading a multi-disciplinary research team to look at factors affecting the mental health of public safety personnel across Canada. What is the latest on the progress of this work?

We are working on several research initiatives designed to support public safety personnel mental health, from prevalence to risk factors, to resiliency factors, as well as working to develop evidence-based best practices for training and interventions. The initial results are becoming increasingly available, but the work has just begun and we hope investments like those made by the RCMP and the federal government will continue so we can make real differences for all of our public safety personnel.

What else would you care to add about the Humboldt Broncos tragedy?

My most sincere sympathies go out to all of those affected. The nation and the world grieves with them, and we all appreciate the incredible efforts made by all those who serve to help in this tragedy. Members of the CIPSRT team and of our professional community are also reaching out to assist not only the public safety personnel, but also all of those in the hockey community and beyond who have been affected. I hope all persons who need help receive the evidence-based care they need.

Dr. Nick Carleton is Professor in the Department of Psychology.

The impact of this tragedy is far-reaching, the work of public safety personnel is ongoing, and the University of Regina is in a unique position to help.

Home to the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT), the University is internationally recognized for work in clinical psychology, particularly PTSD and other operational stress injuries.

Along with partners, Wounded Warriors Canada and Tema Conter Memorial Trust, the University is seeking financial support for the newly established #KeepingThemStrong initiative. Funds raised will support the delivery of evidenced-based treatment and peer support programming for public safety personnel involved in the Humboldt Broncos tragedy. If you would like to donate to or find out more information about the U of R's initiative, please visit: เครดิต ฟรี ถอน ได้ 2561#KeepingThemStrong.

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To donate please visit #KeepingThemStrong.