UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

What helps and hinders the decision to access psychological services in a police population : a critical incident study Burns, Carolyn M.


Police officers are routinely faced with many competing pressures and demands. Exposure to 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 the assistance they require. 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 and can affect the decision to seek help in this population. Although strong influences present within this culture have been identified, no previous research has specifically sought to understand how these pressures and influences impact the decision to access psychological services within a police population. The Enhanced Critical Incident Technique was utilized to explore helpful and hindering factors influencing the decision to access psychological services in a population of police officers based on interviews with 20 serving Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers in the lower mainland of British Columbia, Canada. These 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 these barriers. The results identify the importance of systemic factors, information and education, quality and influence of relationships, individual characteristics, and organizational processes in creating ideal conditions that will increase the likelihood police officers will access the services of a psychologist. These results will serve to inform individual officers, their families, police supervisors and managers, psychological service providers, and those in related professions with an interest in assisting officers remain healthy over their career and long into retirement.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada