LONDON, ONT -- A joint study between Western and McMaster universities is looking at a new approach to treating public safety personnel (PSP) such as nurses, doctors, and first responders suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The study comes at a time when many of our PSP’s are suffering traumas during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Public safety personnel include nurses, firefighters, police, and paramedics, search and rescue volunteers, correctional services officers, border services officers, operational intelligence analysts, Indigenous emergency managers, and others working in the field.

The study has now been awarded a $990,000 over three years from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

The study will look at how effective goal management training aimed at improving cognitive function among PSP’s suffering from PTSD.

Previous research mainly focused on emotional consequences for those who experienced trauma.

“Actual functioning includes such aspects as how quickly they can process new information in the workplace, how good their ability is to stay focused on a certain task and avoid making absentminded slips, and how well they can remember things, such as the location of items, whether they are at work or at home,” said Dr. Lanius, professor at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.

“This can be something as simple as making a recipe to as complex as stopping and thinking before making a careless remark to a family member. Some aspects of functioning may be undervalued by treatment providers but highly valued by patients with PTSD,” said Lanius.

The researchers will be imaging the brains of participants before and after treatment to see if there are any changes in structure and function.

Participants will be recruited from locations across Ontario, among which include St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, London Health Sciences Centre in London, and Homewood Health Centre in Guelph.