Assessing the Perceptions and Impact of Critical Incident Stress Management Peer Support among Firefighters and Paramedics in Canada
Relative to the general population, public safety personnel (PSP) appear at an increased risk of developing mental health challenges as a result of repeated exposure to potentially psychologically traumatic events (PPTEs). To help mitigate the impact of PPTEs on PSP mental health, many PSP agencies have implemented diverse peer support despite limited empirical evidence. The current study was designed to expand the empirical evidence surrounding peer support by investigating one of the most widely used and structured peer support resources: Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM). Specifically, the current study with integrated firefighters and paramedics assessed (a) the prevalence of mental disorders; (b) perceptions of high fidelity CISM peer support; and (c) the comparative associations of CISM with high fidelity (n = 91) versus unknown fidelity (n = 60) versus no CISM (n = 64) and mental health. Results indicated that (a) mental disorders are prevalent among PSP irrespective of gender, age, and years of service; (b) participants perceived CISM peer support as offering beneficial and valuable tools (e.g., skills and coping strategies); and (c) high fidelity CISM environments offer some mental health benefits to individuals who screen positive for alcohol use disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. Overall, the current study offers novel information that can inform future directions for evidence-based peer support and policy decisions designed to support the mental health of PSP.