Authors: Hugh C. McCall, M.A., Janine Beahm, M.A., Caeleigh Landry, B.A., Ziyin Huang, HBSc, R. Nick Carleton, Ph.D, Heather D. Hadjistavropoulos, Ph.D.
The COVID-19 pandemic is creating mental health problems worldwide as people adjust to limited personal interaction and the cancellation of numerous activities. Public safety personnel (PSP), who are at the front line of this pandemic, already display higher levels of mental health issues than the general public.
PSPNET is a free, internet-delivered cognitive behavioural therapy program designed specifically for PSP. Since the program launched just before COVID-19 arrived in Canada, the PSPNET team took the opportunity to explore the frequency and intensity of COVID-19 concerns in PSP seeking mental health help through the program.
PSP that enroll in PSPNET must complete a set of screening questionnaires and a phone interview with a therapist. Therapists began to inquire about the impact of COVID-19 when it first reached the province of Saskatchewan. As cases increased, a separate COVID-19 screening questionnaire was added (April 13, 2020), which looked at the fears and impact of COVID-19. In total, 59 Saskatchewan PSP contributed to the study.
Most of the PSP who were seeking help from PSPNET reported that COVID-19 had negatively impacted their lives emotionally and logistically, but few reported severe impacts. These findings can inform programs and policies designed to help PSP cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. There are limitations to this study. It had a small sample from a province that has been less affected by the pandemic than other regions. It also relied on a more rural sample; the findings might be different in more urban areas. However, this study does support the idea that PSP may be impacted differently by COVID-19.
How have public safety personnel seeking digital mental healthcare been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic? An exploratory mixed methods study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.