Over the past several years, I’ve spoken with thousands of my peers from all over the world. We talk about protocols, mental health, trauma, recovery, resiliency and causes of mental injuries. Non-traumatic organizational factors is a common theme mentioned when I hear about their stressors. We seem to focus on trauma exposure when talking about PTSD and other aspects of poor mental health, but what are some of the other, controllable, contributing factors to our mental wellbeing?
On February 14th, the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health published a paper titled Assessing the Relative Impact of Diverse Stressors among Public Safety Personnel. The results of this study that included 4441 respondents showed that non-traumatic workplace stressors appear to be MORE critical than trauma exposure for poor mental health in emergency workers. Some of the non-traumatic factors included:
Dealing with co-workers
The feeling that different rules apply to different people (e.g., favouritism)
Excessive administrative duties
Constant change in policy/legislation
Perceived pressure to volunteer free time
Dealing with supervisors
Inconsistent leadership style
Leaders over-emphasize the negatives
Feeling like you always have to prove yourself to the organization
Why are the results of this study so relevant? We can’t control the traumatic factors of our job, but we can change the non-traumatic elements. The ‘Station Stress’ we receive, which, according to this study, is a more accurate predictor of our mental health than the trauma we experience, can be mitigated by changes in our work environments. The conclusion of this study recommends policy makers should explore ways to minimize station stress in support of emergency workers by creating a psychologically safe workplace. Simply put – Validate, Support and Understand.
If you’re a manager, supervisor or chief officer I strongly suggest you download a full copy of the paper here: https://res.mdpi.com/…/i…/article_deploy/ijerph-17-01234.pdf