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Thesis Defence: First Aid for the Mind: Exploring Mental Health Support Among First Responders in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
November 28 at 2:30 pm - 6:30 pm
Adriane Peak, supervised by Dr. David Geary, will defend their thesis titled “First Aid for the Mind: Exploring Mental Health Support Among First Responders in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia” in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies – Community Engagement, Social Change and Equity theme.
An abstract for Adriane Peak’s thesis is included below.
Defences are open to all members of the campus community as well as the general public. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to receive the Zoom link for this defence.
In Canada, emergencies are primarily dealt with by First Responders, which includes: firefighters, paramedics, RCMP and police, search and rescue responders, 911 dispatchers, as well as other trained groups in first aid, trauma or disaster response. These individuals are tasked with attending to emergency calls and transporting victims to the next level of care.
First Responders, on the frontline of trauma, witness human suffering through accidents and injuries. Their frequent exposure to the victims and survivors of traumatic events can affect their psychological health, causing a variety of conditions from vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue, moral injury, Occupational Stress Injuries (OSI) to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Dekker 2013, viii). This can lead to changes in psychological and physiological health among First Responders who experience empathy for those who have been injured and also feel responsible for their care.
Despite growing attention to mental health in North America, there has been a lack of attention surrounding mental health of First Responders, and the stigma of seeking help has greatly impacted their behaviors and support (Haugen et al. 2017, 219). Many institutional, psychological and cultural aspects have created an environment where support systems are often inadequate (Dekker 2013, viii). Support has been particularly strained in the context of the worldwide pandemic associated with the spread of COVID-19.
This research examined the challenges of mental health support for First Responders, including how COVID-19 affected these issues. Drawing on community-based research methods and conducting one-on-one interviews with individuals with lived experience, the objective of this research was to better understand barriers to mental health support for First Responders and how to improve access to available supports. The insights gained from this project validate the need for improvements to accessibility of mental health support for First Responders. This project has provided valuable contributions to help strengthen these support networks by creating opportunities for access to mental health resources and training. The ultimate goal of this research was to support the remedial and future work needed to close the gap in mental health services available and foster open communication between First Responders and their communities.