University of Regina-led projects receiving funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada

Backgrounder Release Date: June 27, 2022 11:45 a.m.

Expansion and Evaluation of the Before Operational Stress Program - $9.0 million

This project will increase and evaluate the effectiveness of a training program designed to reduce the impacts of operational stress on Public Safety Personnel (PSP).

Wayfound Mental Health Group Inc. (Wayfound) are leading a project to deploy the Before Operational Stress (BOS) program to thousands of PSP and frontline healthcare workers.  The BOS program was developed by Wayfound and originally sponsored by Wounded Warriors Canada. The Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT) has been independently evaluating the program since 2018 and will continue independently evaluating the BOS program through the duration of the current expansion project being undertaken by Wayfound.

“In my practice I have seen the devastating psychological effects operational stress can have on those who serve our communities,” said Dr. Megan McElheran clinical psychologist and CEO of Wayfound. “I developed the BOS program out of a desire to provide public safety personnel with an intervention that would support greater psychological protection relative to their role.”

BOS is a resiliency-based training program that combines theoretical and experiential learning to mitigate the effects of operational stress based on cognitive behavioural therapy principles and theories. The team has created a digital version of BOS that provides participants with access to all of the training and skill-building components.

The current expansion project seeks to deploy the digital version of BOS training to 100,000 PSP and frontline health care workers. In addition, virtual BOS training will be provided to 3,000 PSP and frontline healthcare workers, with in-person training (COVID permitting) provided to another 600 participants. The training will provide data from a very large sample that CIPSRT will use to independently and empirically evaluate the BOS program effectiveness.

“The project will provide many public safety personnel and frontline healthcare workers with BOS training, which we hope will help mitigate the impact of trauma PSP face while serving their communities, and we look forward to sharing the results of our evaluation,” said Dr. Nicholas Carleton, scientific director, CIPSRT, and professor of clinical psychology at the University of Regina.

Advancing Peer Support Programming to address PTSD and trauma among Canadian Public Safety Personnel and Veterans - $3.7 million

This project will focus on improving the use of peer support to improve mental health and well-being of public safety personnel (PSP).

Led by researchers from the University of Regina, the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT), McMaster University, and the Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families, the project will provide a coordinated national approach to peer support for public safety personnel, enable evidence-based improvements and standardization, and ultimately lead to independent nationally-recognized accreditations.

“Many public safety personnel have identified an urgent need for peer support, especially in rural or remote areas and for those with limited resources, such as volunteer firefighters,” said Dr. Sandra Moll, associate professor in the School of Rehabilitation Science at McMaster University. “This project will develop and deploy OnCall and OnCallSupport, a mobile health platform that provides private, secure access to peer support both when and where it is needed.”

The Advancing Peer Support Programming to address PTSD and trauma among Canadian Public Safety Personnel and Veterans project will help work towards broadly accepted minimum standards for peer support; facilitate access to 24/7/365 information and peer support; provide surge capacity by leveraging connected communities of peer supporters; and will develop nationally-recognized peer support accreditations.

“The work of public safety personnel consists of unique demands and stressors, including increased risk of exposure to potentially psychologically traumatic events,” said Dr. Nicholas Carleton, scientific director, CIPSRT and professor of clinical psychology at the U of R. “This project can help improve access to trusted peer-to-peer supports to improve public safety personnel mental health and well-being.”

Canadian Institutes for Pandemic Health Education and Response - $2.8 million

This initiative will focus on supporting projects addressing the mental health and well-being of frontline and essential workers, and others most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Canadian Institutes for Pandemic Health Education and Response (CIPHER) project is led by Dr. Alexandre Heber, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Ottawa, and chief of psychiatry for Veteran’s Affairs Canada, Dr. Nicholas Carleton, scientific director, Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT), and professor of clinical psychology at the University of Regina, and Dr. Nick Jones, executive director, CIPSRT, and professor of justice studies at the U of R. Together they will coordinate existing knowledge hubs and provide support to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC)-funded projects that deliver and test interventions that address trauma and posttraumatic stress injuries in frontline and essential workers, and others who are most affected by the pandemic.

“The pandemic has had and continues to have a profound effect on frontline healthcare and other essential workers and these PHAC-funded projects are intended to help address their mental-health needs,” said Dr. Jones. “CIPHER will play a critical role in coordinating and sharing the knowledge gained in supporting the mental well-being of these workers during the pandemic and beyond.”

In order to build and share evidence-based mental-health resources with the frontline community, CIPHER will: develop a website for knowledge mobilization and knowledge translation resources; create educational supports for PHAC-funded projects; create new resources based on PHAC-funded projects; build a project portal to enable collaboration and establish a network between all PHAC-funded project members.

CIPHER founding partners include: Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families, Canadian Federation of Nurses Union, Canadian Institute for Military Veteran Health Research, Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT), Canadian Standards Association, Canadian Medical Association, CIPSRT Public Safety Steering Committee, HiMarc (University of Alberta), Homewood Health Centre and Homewood Health Inc, Homewood Research Institute, McMaster University, Psychology of Pandemics Network, Ontario Medical Association, Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor General, and University of Regina.

Training and Development Program for Public Safety Personnel - $2.1 million

This project will provide high-quality, accessible, and responsive training and development to support the mental health and resiliency of public safety personnel (PSP).

The University of Regina’s Dr. Nicholas Carleton, scientific director, Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT), and professor of clinical psychology and Dr. Nick Jones, executive director, CIPSRT, and professor of justice studies at the U of R, are leading the Training and Development Program for Public Safety Personnel project.

“CIPSRT is a leader in the research and development of effective mental-health treatment and training programs with the goal of improving the lifetime well-being of public safety personnel, their leadership, and their families.” said Dr. Jones.

The program, being developed in collaboration with researchers, subject matter experts, and PSP, will improve access to relevant and urgent training for PSP and stakeholders. It will expand upon CIPSRT’s existing training programs, provide new modalities and increased reach for existing training, and pilot the testing and expansion of CIPSRT’s newest training opportunities.

“Our public safety personnel provide essential services to communities and people across Canada, often during times of crisis and trauma, and it is privilege to be able to work with and support them,” said Dr. Carleton.

An Ecosystem of Resources and Supports for Public Safety Personnel Families -$2.1 million

Soon, public safety personnel (PSP) and their families will have access to trauma-informed mental health promotion resources and supports to serve the families of PSP through the PSPNET Families Wellbeing Hub.

Dr. Heidi Cramm, associate professor in the School of Rehabilitation Therapy, Faculty of Health Sciences, and research lead for the Families Matter Research Group at Queen’s University, Dr. Heather Hadjistavropoulos, professor of psychology, director of the Online Therapy Unit, and founder of Public Safety Personnel Internet-delivered Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (PSPNET) at the University of Regina, and Dr. Nathalie Reid, director of the Child Trauma Research Centre and lecturer in the Faculty of Education at the U of R, will lead the development of the PSPNET Families Wellbeing Hub, which will offer resources and supports for public safety personnel families.

“The occupational risks and requirements that PSP, like fire, police and paramedics, take on to keep our communities safe do not end with them. They also transfer through to their families,” said Dr. Cramm. “Existing research about PSP often focuses solely on them and their careers, neglecting the bidirectional effects that PSP careers have on family members. This project will help to address that gap.”

Developing the PSPNET Families Wellbeing Hub requires an approach that recognizes how PSP and their family members affect one another’s mental health and well-being.

“The focus of this project is to support the well-being of the family members of public safety personnel,” said Dr. Reid. “Providing family members with mental-health resources and supports is critical for addressing their needs; these families experience a persistent requirement to adapt to dynamic logistics that add stress to daily life while navigating potential impacts of PSP trauma exposure on their relationships.”

“PSPNET has had tremendous success offering support to PSP using internet-delivered cognitive behaviour therapy,” said Dr. Hadjistavropoulos. “I am delighted to now expand on this work and collaborate with Drs. Cramm and Reid on the development and evaluation of online resources for the families of PSP. By offering PSPNET Families Wellbeing Hub alongside PSPNET, I am confident that we can get these resources into the hands of families when they are needed.”

 

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