University of Regina professor says some peer support and crisis intervention programs need more evidence

A U of R professor and clinical psychologist says more research needs to be done on intervention programs.

Clinical psychologist says more study needed on peer support and crisis intervention programs

They're paramedics, police officers, firefighters.

And on any given day, they see things most of us will never have to witness.

However, a new paper from the University of Regina says more research needs to be done on intervention programs directed at first responders actually help the people involved.

"We found there's a drastic need for more research assessing the impact of the programs that are currently offered to our police, paramedics, and fire and rescue personnel." said Nick Carleton, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Regina.

"Currently, there is very little, if any evidence available proving the effectiveness of any specific program. This is harmful to well-being of our first responders."

Carleton already has the support of several organizations representing first responders. Now with the paper released, the group's next step is to hear from 250,000 Canadian first responders about how their job affects their mental health and their families.

"I think we need to recognize that the evidence is not there to tell us how to best support first responders," said Carleton. "We're exposing many people to extraordinary trauma. My hope is more research will help us better understand the impacts this work can have and move forward in finding how best to recognize, prevent, intervene and treat them."

Serious problem

According to the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP), there have been 26 Canadian first responders who've committed suicide this year.

Fourty first responders took their lives last year.

"At the current rate, this may be the worst year for suicides," said CACP president Mario Harel. "The mental health of our people is at risk. This has to change".