Workplace violence and mental health of paramedics and firefighters

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Setlack, Jennifer
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Paramedics and firefighters are at a higher risk for developing psychopathologies due to frequent exposure to traumatic incidents inherent within their work. In addition, current research shows that this population also experiences high levels of workplace violence due to their often unpredictable and dangerous work environments. The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship of workplace violence and traumatic events to psychopathology in emergency services workers with the secondary aim of investigating how coping styles and self-compassion may moderate this relationship. A convenience sample of firefighters (N = 117) and paramedics (N = 129) were recruited from the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service. Participants completed a series of online self-report questionnaires on Qualtrics, measuring PTSD, depression, anxiety, stress, burnout, workplace violence, self-compassion and coping skills. The study used a cross-sectional design to determine the influence of workplace violence on psychopathologies. Workplace violence was shown to have pervasive impacts on psychopathology and burnout in paramedics, but not in firefighters. Self-compassion is generally protective for both groups, but it is particularly helpful for paramedics that have experienced greater workplace violence. Behavioral disengagement and self-blame were associated with higher levels of PTSD for firefighters and paramedics. The implications of this research, understanding the relationship between workplace violence and mental health, may inform emergency services departmental policies. These policies may act to protect current firefighters and paramedics and may have the potential to improve working conditions and career longevity for future practitioners in this field.
emergency services, self-compassion, burnout, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder