UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Extinguishing stigma : an examination of firefighter stress, social supports, and attitudes towards psychological help for behavioural health Isaac, Gemma


Firefighters are exposed to high stress environments, often witnessing multiple traumatic events throughout their careers. Due to a number of recent suicides, unknown deaths, and line of duty deaths in the fire service, a call to examining firefighters’ psychological support and accessibility has become a priority in occupational health and safety. The primary objectives of this study were to investigate firefighter occupational stress, peer supports, and attitudes towards psychological help for behavioural health. Findings from the data collected from 254 firefighters from a large fire department in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia show that disruption of sleep, isolation from family due to work demands and stress, and upsetting thoughts about past runs were the top occupational stressors for firefighters. However, data suggest that these occupational stressors were mitigated by the levels of peer support received; that is, those who reported higher levels of peer support also reported lower levels of occupational stress. Survey data revealed firefighters are in support of seeing professional psychological help for behavioural health. Qualitative data provided insight on what firefighters deemed as helpful or challenging variables when connecting with support, while also providing suggestions for effective mental health supports. Implications of and recommendations from these findings are discussed.

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