Keeping emergency personnel safe when it comes to mental health is the focus of a new study focused on a particular type of yoga.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is the most common mental illness among emergency personnel.

“Flashbacks, nightmares, avoidance, hyper vigilance, those are the common symptoms,” says Dr. Akshya Vasudev at the Lawson Health Research Institute.

The scientist says PTSD is frequently undiagnosed and untreated.

“I’ve met so many first responders who can’t get back to work because of trauma. The worst part is there is stigma attached to talking about the trauma that they are suffering.”

Vasudev says statistics show that eight to 32 per cent of emergency personnel will develop PTSD in their life time.

That’s why his research team is launching a new study looking at how a certain form of yoga called Sudarshan kriya yoga (SKY) could be used as treatment for this population.

“This yoga is not any other yoga, it’s different, it’s a sequence of breath-based interventions. People learn to bring down their stress levels by controlling their breath, and finally by using sound values they are able to go to a state of complete relaxation.”

In order to conduct this study the research team is hoping to recruit 70 participants who suffer from PTSD that work either with police, fire or EMS. Health care workers will also be included in this study.

The study will take about nine months to complete, and if the results are promising, Vasudev hopes it brings this treatment one step closer to a common clinical practice.

“Our hope and vision is that at some stage mental health services can offer this treatment as a routine both in primary care and secondary care."