How Have Public Safety Personnel Seeking Digital Mental Healthcare Been Affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic? An Exploratory Mixed Methods Study
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Public safety personnel (PSP) experience unique occupational stressors and suffer from high rates of mental health problems. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted virtually all aspects of human life around the world and has introduced additional occupational stressors for PSP. The objective of this study was to explore how PSP, especially those seeking digital mental health services, have been affected by the pandemic. Our research unit, PSPNET, provides internet-delivered cognitive behavioral
... tive behavioral therapy to PSP in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. When the pandemic spread to Saskatchewan, PSPNET began inquiring about the impact of the pandemic on prospective clients during the eligibility screening process. We used content analysis to analyze data from telephone screening interviews (n = 56) and descriptive statistics to analyze data from a questionnaire concerning the impacts of COVID-19 (n = 41). The results showed that most PSP reported facing several novel emotional challenges (e.g., social isolation, boredom, anger, and fear) and logistical challenges (e.g., related to childcare, finances, work, and access to mental healthcare). Most participants indicated they felt at least somewhat afraid of contracting COVID-19 but felt more afraid of their families contracting the virus than themselves. However, few participants reported severe challenges of any kind, and many (40%) indicated that they had not been significantly negatively impacted by the pandemic. Overall, the results suggest that PSP are not expressing significant concern at this time in meeting the novel challenges posed by COVID-19. Continued research will be required to monitor how diverse PSP populations and treatment outcomes are affected by the pandemic as the situation evolves.