May. 11th 2023 Scientific papers

A feasibility study of psychological first aid as a supportive intervention among police officers exposed to traumatic events


Police officers are often exposed to traumatic events, which can induce psychological distress and increase the risk of developing post-traumatic stress injuries. To date, little is known about support and prevention of traumatic events in police organizations. Psychological first aid (PFA) has been promoted as a promising solution to prevent psychological distress following exposure to a traumatic event. However, PFA has not yet been adapted to policing reality, let alone to the frequent exposure to traumatic events faced by this population.


This study aimed to evaluate the feasibility of PFA as an early intervention for the prevention of post-traumatic stress injuries among police officers in Quebec, Canada.

Specifically, the objectives were to evaluate: (1) the demand. (2) the practicality, and (3) the acceptability of PFA in a police organization.


  • 36 police officers participatedin semi-structured interviews between October 26th, 2021, and July 23rd, 2022.
  • Participants were comprised of responders (n = 26), beneficiaries (n = 4) and
    managers (n=6).
  • Interviews were transcribed, coded, and evaluated according toa thematic analysis.

Results & Discussion

  • Results suggestedthat PFA met individual and organizational needs.
  • Participants providedfeedback for improving the implementation and sustainability of a PFA program.

Regarding practicality, PFA were described as useful, helpful and flexible.

  • Responders believed the training increased confidence in their abilityto support fellow colleagues. They reported being betterequipped to detect, understand, and act upon psychological distress.
  • The PFA approachwas also characterized as easy to use, namely because it provided
    responders with clear action points.
  • Further, PFA was viewed as morerelevant and respectful of individual pace than other trainings.
  • Finally,responders valued having access to useful materials (e.g., reminder/checklist, intervention report canvas) to plan upcoming interventionsor to review completed sessions.

Overall, findings revealed that implementation of a PFA program in a law enforcement agency was feasible and could be accomplished without major issues. Importantly, PFA had beneficial consequences within the organization. Specifically, PFA destigmatized mental health issues and renewed a sense of hope among police personnel.

Authors : Steve Geoffrion, Marie-Pierre Leduc, Elody Bourgouin, François Bellemare, Valérie Arenzon and Christine Genest (2023)

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