Thunder Bay

Lakehead University research aims to support mental health of firefighters through pandemic

A Lakehead University researcher will spend six months developing mental health resources for firefighters thanks to a grant of nearly $50,000.

COVID-19 leads to ‘heightened risk’ of the development of mental health issues

A Lakehead University researcher has received a grant to develop mental health resources for firefighters.

A Lakehead University researcher will spend six months developing mental health resources for firefighters thanks to a grant of nearly $50,000.

Kathryn Sinden, an assistant professor in kinesiology at the university in Thunder Bay, Ont., received the grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and said her work will focus on developing new resources for firefighters to help them maintain their mental health.

"There was a real need following [severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS] for real structured programming for our first responders, for our health care workers, to ensure that they're supported in these heightened periods, and heightened trauma exposure periods," Sinden said. "We're certainly seeing that in the literature, and I guess the question now is what were those supports to look like, and have they been implemented?"

"Are we supporting our first responder community, and are we supporting our health care workers in the way that they need?"

Sinden said firefighters are being exposed to the same mental health conditions during the COVID-19 outbreak as other first responders were during SARS.

During the research, firefighters will "appraise information about managing mental health from peer-reviewed academic journals, online information specific to firefighter health and general platforms, and existing guidelines provided by firefighter associations," Lakehead said in a media release.

Sinden will then use the results of the research to develop resources that can be used by firefighters to develop strategies for better managing their mental health.

"We're always looking for occupational crossover," she said. "Where possible, I'd like to have some input from paramedics, as well, just to see how [they could] implement these guidelines."

COVID-19 and mental health of front line workers. Kathryn Sinden, a Lakehead University researcher is taking a closer look at the coronavirus, PTSD and firefighters. 5:42

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