Saskatchewan

25 per cent of Sask. police officers have probable PTSD, study finds

The first in-depth study of its kind looks into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Saskatchewan's police officers, and paints a grim picture.

Study shows 12 per cent of municipal police officers in Saskatchewan also have probable PTSD

A study on Saskatchewan police officers shows many likely suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The first in-depth study of its kind looks into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Saskatchewan's police officers, and paints a grim picture.

It found about 12 per cent of municipal police officers in Saskatchewan had probable PTSD, and about 25 per cent of RCMP officers in the province had probable PTSD. 
Samantha Horswill stands next to some of her research on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Saskatchewan's police officers. (submitted by Samantha Horswill)

Samantha Horswill is a doctoral student in clinical psychology at the University of Regina, and has just finished the first part of the study. The last study on the same subject was conducted by her one of her supervisors a decade ago. 

"We really noticed that most of the research that's being done on police officers is in the States, and policing in the states is pretty different than policing in Canada," Horswill said. 

Even just pulling over someone who is speeding could end up in a potentially traumatic situation. We don't talk about it as much as we should, but I think people are starting to become more aware of it.- Samantha Horswill

Her survey was sent out in September last year to every currently deployed officer at the time. Almost a quarter of people responded, which Horswill says could suggest that the concern about first responders experiencing PTSD is growing. 

"We think about it in military primarily, and a lot of people don't think of policing as that stressful," she said. "But when you think about an RCMP officer's job, they can be super isolated, and even a municipal police officer. Even just pulling over someone who is speeding could end up in a potentially traumatic situation. We don't talk about it as much as we should, but I think people are starting to become more aware of it."

So far it is a snapshot study, and since Horswill hasn't yet followed up with people over time, she can't talk about cause and effect.

She can, however, identify some predictors of PTSD. People who have high anxiety and are uncomfortable with an uncertain future are at a higher risk of having PTSD. 

The next step in her study is to follow new recruits over time to see what patterns show up. After that she can look into how it affects someone's job. 

"Someone can have PTSD and still do a good job, but chances are good they're not functioning very well." 

The study relied on voluntary responses, but Horswill says it's hard to say if that affected the data. It's possible that people responding to the survey were the people struggling with PTSD, or it's possible that people with and without wanted to respond because they see it as an important issue.

"Given that we had a fairly high response rate for that research, I'm more comfortable generalizing it," she said.

Saskatchewan's RCMP says there are some programs to assist people suffering from PTSD and other problems. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tiffany Cassidy is the Digital Associate Producer at CBC Saskatchewan.

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