Major grant supports key research to protect mental health of all public safety personnel

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: April 15, 2020 9:15 a.m.

Dr. Nick Carleton was recently awarded $989,925 by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s (CIHR) Mental Wellness in Public Safety Team Grants.
Dr. Nick Carleton was recently awarded $989,925 by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s (CIHR) Mental Wellness in Public Safety Team Grants. Photo: U of R Photography

A day’s work for public safety personnel, such as border services officers, 911 operators and other public safety communications officials, correctional workers, firefighters (career and volunteer), paramedics, and police, often involves either being in the midst of or a witness to potentially psychologically traumatic events that can take a toll on their mental health. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, while other Canadians are practising social/physical distancing, Canada’s public safety personnel are rushing in to continue keeping people safe and secure. That’s why it’s vital to help public safety personnel identify psychological and physiological signs of trauma and stress-related disorders, including symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. 

In December 2017, a significant step toward that goal took place when University of Regina psychologist Dr. R. Nicholas Carleton was awarded an $8.9 million contract by the federal government to conduct a study on the effects of policing on the mental health of Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers. 

“We have had a lot of success with the RCMP project, and now we want to take the original framework and adapt and expand it to support all public safety personnel,” says Carleton. 

And, just recently, Carleton was awarded $989,925 by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s (CIHR) Mental Wellness in Public Safety Team Grants to do just that

In addition, the three-year project received a variety of additional support, including $47,250 from the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency to support its technology needs, as well as a total of almost $795,000 of in-kind support from public safety partners in police, fire, and paramedics, along with the RCMP, and the University of Regina. 

“The significant support from CIHR and our collaborators will allow our impressive network of people who are doing different and complementary work to adapt our existing software and platform, and to incorporate participant feedback and results to develop a tailor-made

infrastructure for the broader public safety community,” says Carleton, who is also the scientific director of the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT). 

Dr. Kathleen McNutt, Interim Vice-President (Research) at the U of R, says Carleton and his team are international leaders in evidence-based mental-health research and treatment for public safety personnel. 

“The University of Regina is honoured that this new funding will allow us to expand our unique role in supporting the mental health needs of a diverse community of frontline public safety personnel and their leaders,” says McNutt. 

Alert to the need, Carleton is eager to get to work on this latest project. 

“The design, recruitment, and roll out of equipment and software will take about a year. Then we’ll launch the project to people working in various public safety sectors, after which we will gather data” says Carleton. “At the end of this project, we will have a very scalable protocol for helping all public safety personnel.” 

Carleton is optimistic that the work they are doing now can eventually also be expanded to be beneficial for all Canadians. 

“If this tool can be scaled to 300,000 public safety personnel, in theory, it can eventually be scaled to help all Canadians,” says Carleton. 

For details on the CIHR grant, please visit here.


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