Experiences of trauma, depression, anxiety, and stress in western-Canadian HEMS personnel

Sebastian Harenberg, Michelle C. E. McCarron, R. Nicholas Carleton, Thomas O'Malley, Terry Ross

Abstract


Mental health in first responders and other public safety personnel has received substantial research attention in the past decade. Emergency medical services (EMS) demonstrate a heightened prevalence of maladaptive mental health concerns compared to other first responders (e.g., police, fire fighters). Interestingly, there is an absence of research examining helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) personnel, who respond to what are often life-threatening cases in chal­lenging circumstances. Hence, the purpose of the present study was to assess the experiences of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and associated mental health conditions (i.e., depression, anxiety, stress) in HEMS workers. HEMS work­ers from a single mid-western Canadian organization (n = 100) participated in the study. The participants completed the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist (PCL-5) and the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS-21) as part of an online survey. The results revealed that five per cent of HEMS personnel experienced heightened PTSD symptoms. Few participants exhibited signs of mild to severe depression, anxiety, and stress (< 17%). HEMS personnel experienced fewer mental health concerns than other first responder groups as reported in the literature; indeed, these figures are similar to levels observed within the general population. These findings may be explained by organizational or personality charac­teristics. Underreporting of mental health concerns may be an alternate explanation. Future qualitative and quantitative research is needed to explain and replicate the results of the present study. 


Keywords


Mental health; first responders; helicopter emergency medical services; PTSD

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ISSN 2371-4298