Recent investigations have demonstrated a significant prevalence of mental health disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and suicidal ideation, plans and attempts among Canadian public safety personnel, including police officers. What remains unknown is the relationship between mental disorders and suicide among sworn police officers, and the prevalence of both among civilian police workers.
To examine the relationship between suicidal ideation, plans and attempts and positive mental health screens for depression, anxiety, panic disorder, alcohol abuse and PTSD among Canadian sworn and civilian police employees.
Participants completed an online survey that included self-report screening tools for depression, anxiety, panic disorder, alcohol abuse and PTSD. Respondents were also asked if they ever contemplated, planned or attempted suicide. Between-group (Royal Canadian Mounted Police [RCMP], provincial/municipal police and civilians) differences on mental health screening tools were calculated using Kruskal-Wallis analyses. The relationship between mental disorders and suicidal ideation, plans and attempts was evaluated with a series of logistic regressions.
There were 4236 civilian and sworn officer participants in the study. RCMP officers reported more suicidal ideation than other police and scored highest on measures of PTSD, depression, anxiety, stress and panic disorder, which were significantly associated with suicidal ideation and plans but not attempts. Relative to provincial and municipal police, civilians reported more suicide attempts and scored higher on measures of anxiety.
The results identify a strong relationship between mental health disorders and increased risk for suicidal ideation, plans and attempts among sworn and civilian Canadian police employees.