UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Factors that Influence the Decision to Seek Help in a Police Population Burns, Carolyn M.; Buchanan, Marla


Police officers face many competing pressures and demands. Exposure to potentially traumatic incidents and significant job-related stressors can place many at higher risk of developing physical and mental health problems. The police culture exerts a pronounced influence on officers, preventing some from asking for or receiving assistance. The stigma of being perceived as weak or incompetent, concerns about being labelled unfit for duty, and worry that accessing psychological support will impact future career advancement can affect the decision to seek help. The Enhanced Critical Incident Technique was utilized to investigate the following research question: What helps or hinders the decision to access psychological services in a police population? Qualitative interviews were conducted with 20 serving Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers in the lower mainland of British Columbia, Canada. The findings encompass five main themes: the importance of systemic factors, access to information and education, quality and influence of relationships, individual characteristics, and organizational processes that will increase the likelihood of accessing mental health services. The results contribute to the empirical literature by enhancing what is known about elements that influence an officers’ decision to seek psychological services, and factors that can enable officers to overcome barriers.

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