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U of R based internet-delivered mental health support program for public safety personnel expanding to Quebec

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: September 23, 2020 9:00 a.m.

Launched on September 23 in Quebec, PSPNET will provide free mental-health therapy to public safety personnel, which includes border security agents, communications officials, correctional workers, firefighters, paramedics, and police.
Launched on September 23 in Quebec, PSPNET will provide free mental-health therapy to public safety personnel, which includes border security agents, communications officials, correctional workers, firefighters, paramedics, and police. Photo: stock

The work that public safety personnel (PSP) perform every day exposes them to dangerous and potentially traumatic situations that can create long-lasting physical and mental health issues for them and their families. 

Help is coming to those impacted in Quebec as a new  internet-based mental health support programming is expanding to that province after a successful launch in Saskatchewan. The Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT) at the University of Regina is expanding its Public Safety Personnel Internet-delivered Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (PSPNET) program to Quebec. 

Following a September 23 virtual launch, help for those who help all of us is now just a phone call or a click away. The program will begin to offer online therapy in both official languages (English and French) to PSP living in Quebec, providing much-needed support to those living with mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and stress disorders due to posttraumatic stress injuries (PTSI). 

A strong team of University of Regina researchers and clinicians, led by Dr. Heather Hadjistavropoulos, one of Canada’s leading scholars in Internet-delivered Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (ICBT), is behind this innovative way of providing therapy to tackle some of the health issues facing public safety personnel and their families. 

The program is offered at no cost to border security agents and communications officials such as emergency response dispatchers, as well as correctional workers, firefighters, paramedics, and police officers. 

“PSPNET was first launched in Saskatchewan in January 2020 with great success,” says Dr. Heather Hadjistavropoulos, Professor of Psychology at the U of R and principal investigator of PSPNET. “Nearly 90 per cent of PSP who take the eight-week online therapy and PSP well-being course report increased confidence and the ability to manage their symptoms, and approximately 85 per cent see anxiety and depression reduced or maintained at non-clinical levels.” 

  • “I loved the resources and that the course is focused on first responders. First responders often feel isolated because of their experiences. Reading about cases similar to mine helped me feel less alone with what I’m experiencing in my life. The materials are great! I find them really clearly laid out and thorough, but reachable.”
  • “It was good to be able to do it on my time and in my own home. It helps with the comfort of reaching out for help while still being in my own safe zone. I liked how it was flexible and allowed me to work at my own pace. Once I began the course, I found myself feeling hopeful and even a little more understood in how I am struggling and the different ways people can struggle with mental health as a PSP.”

“We are proud of  the remarkable work being done by Dr. Hadjistavropoulos, especially for the progress the PSPNET team has made in Saskatchewan in helping to improve the mental health and well-being of those who sacrifice a lot on a daily basis to keep all of us safe,” says CIPSRT Scientific Director Dr. Nicholas Carleton. “We look forward to a similar level of success in Quebec.” 

“The PSPNET team is proud of their role in the Government of Canada’s Action Plan on Post-Traumatic Stress Injuries through this project, which is providing much-needed support to Canada’s public safety personnel, and their families,” says University of Regina Interim President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Thomas Chase. 

PSPNET is supported by a $10 million investment previously announced in 2018 by Public Safety Canada as part of the Government’s Action Plan on Post-Traumatic Stress Injuries

“I am pleased to see the great work that is being done by the PSPNET team. The PSP Wellbeing Course has provided valuable care to many public safety personnel in Saskatchewan and I am confident it will be as successful in Quebec,” says the Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. “By supporting research and initiatives like this one, the Government of Canada is helping to protect front-line personnel, the people we rely on every day to protect us, from the detrimental effects of post-traumatic stress injuries.” 

The eight-week program provides free and confidential access to treatment in English and French for depression, anxiety, and PTSI for PSP who:

  • self-report problems with anxiety, depression or posttraumatic stress injuries;
  • are 18 years of age or older;
  • are comfortable using and have access to the internet;
  • are willing to provide a local medical contact in case of emergencies; and,
  • live in Saskatchewan or Quebec.

The Saskatchewan and Quebec model  will provide a framework for possible expansion nationwide in the future. 

For more information or to inquire about how to subscribe to the program, please visit www.pspnet.ca or contact the PSPNET team by email (pspnet@uregina.ca) or phone (306-337-7233 or 1-833-317-7233). 

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U of R launches a new online treatment program to support public safety personnel in Saskatchewan