Two Faculty of Health Sciences faculty members are receiving funding to support their research on post-traumatic stress injuries (PTSI) in public safety personnel.

Margaret McKinnon and Sandra Moll are two of 22 recipients of one-year grants of $150,000 as part of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) PTSI Catalyst Grant competition. The grants are a springboard for researchers who are raising the understanding of how to identify, treat, and prevent PTSI among public safety personnel.

Public safety personnel – from firefighters and police officers to paramedics and correctional workers, among others – are repeatedly exposed to traumatic incidents, which can put them at risk for mental health impacts and severe psychological difficulties, known as post-traumatic stress injuries, or PTSI.

McKinnon is an associate professor and associate chair of research in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster. She holds the Homewood Chair in Mental Health and Trauma. She is also a psychologist at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton.

She is conducting a randomized control trial examining the treatment efficacy of a novel approach to cognitive remediation in public safety personnel with post-traumatic stress disorder and co-morbid conditions.

"There is an urgent need to address the crisis of PTSD and related mental health conditions among our first responder community," McKinnon said. "We are extremely grateful to CIHR for the opportunity to test further this intervention, which addresses oft-neglected cognitive symptoms (e.g., memory; attention) of PTSD in this very special population."  

Moll is an associate professor in the School of Rehabilitation Science at McMaster, and an occupational therapist.

She is co-designing "e-Ami", a mobile health approach to PTSI prevention and peer support with Ontario public safety personnel.

"It is exciting to get the news that we are able to further our research on the value of technology in supporting Ontario public safety personnel," Moll said. "Since we will be co-designing a mobile health app in collaboration with the target group, this will not only increase the quality, relevance and acceptability of the final product, but also help to overcome personal and systemic barriers to accessing information and support."

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