Inquiries Heighten Stress for Emergency Workers. (Firefighters, Police, Paramedics)

By Sherman, Carl | Clinical Psychiatry News, December 2001 | Go to article overview

Inquiries Heighten Stress for Emergency Workers. (Firefighters, Police, Paramedics)


Sherman, Carl, Clinical Psychiatry News


BOSTON -- Postmortem reviews," such as internal investigations, coroner's inquests, and public hearings magnify the effects of stressful events on firefighters, police, ambulance drivers, and other emergency workers, Cheryl Regehr, Ph.D., said at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law.

Scores on measures of event impact and depression are-higher, and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are more pronounced in individuals who were subjected to such investigations, compared with those who had similar experiences but were not subjected to inquiry, said Dr. Regehr, director of the Center for Applied Social Research at the University of Toronto.

Media attention intensifies the trauma further, and the longer the period of scrutiny, the more severe the effects, she said.

The impact of work-related stress on emergency personnel has been the focus of increasing interest, as highlighted by the events of Sept. 11. It has become dear that situations encountered by such workers in the line of duty can have lasting impact.

The amount of public scrutiny brought to bear on these individuals in the wake of critical events, such as shootings, fires, and crashes, is also on the increase--particularly in complex cases where there is a desire to determine "what went wrong," Dr. Regehr said.

"After the event, there's an outpouring of public support, but there's also a growing tendency to blame those doing their best to make things work," she said.

Dr. Regehr reported a study of 285 police, fire, and ambulance workers in metropolitan Toronto, with a mean of 11 years in service--two-thirds of whom had been involved in an event that caused significant emotional distress.

In the group, there were significant indicators of distress: 6.3% abused alcohol, compared with 1. …

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