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Enhancing Organizational Support for Emergency First Responders and their Families: Examining the Role of Personal Support Networks after the Experience of Work-Related Trauma

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Title: Enhancing Organizational Support for Emergency First Responders and their Families: Examining the Role of Personal Support Networks after the Experience of Work-Related Trauma
Author: Ewles, Grace
Department: Department of Psychology
Program: Psychology
Advisor: Hausdorf, Dr. Peter
Abstract: First responders are at risk for the development of mental health disorders due to work-related trauma exposure. Despite the frequency of trauma exposure, previous research has found that many first responders fail to seek help from their respective organizations. Rather, it has been demonstrated that individuals are more likely to attempt to cope themselves or seek support from friends and family members. To expand on this line of research, the purpose of this dissertation was to explore the support process from multiple perspectives, including investigating the role of personal support networks in individual adjustment to a traumatic work-related event, in addition to exploring the factors that shape the efficacy of support interactions from the perspective of support providers. To address this, Chapter 1 used cross-sectional survey data from a policing sample (n = 158), which included sworn officers, auxiliary staff, and civilian members, to explore the relationships between trauma exposure, appraisal, enacted coping strategies, support seeking, and psychological impairment. In addition to the quantitative data obtained, the quality of the support received was explored using data from open-ended responses. Findings support previous research, with spouses representing the most common source of helpful support. To supplement findings from the cross-sectional survey, Chapter 2 explored the support process from the perspective of support providers using a multi-method approach, including an online questionnaire and qualitative interviews with spouses of first responders. Qualitative data from 38 spouses of first responders (police: 13; fire: 3; paramedic: 22) provided insight into the nuanced nature of support initiation and provision, including barriers limiting first responders’ help-seeking behaviour and the challenges spouses face when providing support. Findings highlight the importance of aligning the support provided to a partner’s needs, with emotional support being most frequently described as effective. Together, this research informs future directions for skills-based intervention research for first responders and their spouses in Chapter 3. Additionally, findings from both studies provide key takeaways for individuals, organizations, and communities. Together, these can inform the development of a network of resources, including evidence-based programs and mental health initiatives to support emergency first responders and their families across Canada.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10214/17497
Date: 2019-09
Rights: Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International
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Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International