THUNDER BAY - First responders often face a lot of pressure and stress on the job and this has only increased in recent months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This added strain could result in more mental health issues among first responders like firefighters, who are often the first on the scene, and one researcher at Lakehead University is looking at ways to offer more supports to men and women on the frontline.
Kathryn Sinden, an assistant professor in kinesiology at Lakehead University, has been awarded $49,968 Knowledge Synthesis COVID-19 rapid response grant by the Canadian Institute of Health Research to develop resources to support firefighters during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Researchers have found that in periods of heightened risk such as a pandemic, there are further impacts on individuals’ mental health,” Sinden said.
“For example, following the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003, front-line workers identified this event as traumatic and those who had higher risk for SARS exposure reported more post-traumatic stress injury symptoms than other workers.”
Sinden’s research will use an integrated knowledge translation approach with firefighters being a critical part of the research.
The team will review academic journals, online information, and existing guidelines from firefighter associations to gather information on existing approaches to mental health.
This information will be used by Sinden to develop various resources to be implemented by firefighters, as well as other first responders, to develop strategies to best manage mental health issues.
“We are very pleased to have received this funding from CIHR,” said Andrew Dean, Lakehead’s Vice-President, Research and Innovation. “This applied research project is important, timely and hopefully will yield valuable results for mental health management strategies for firefighters."