Psychological Resilience of High Risk Occupational Workers

    Author Name(s)

    Zachary Ngo

    Faculty Advisor(s)

    Dr. Amira Ibrahim

    Abstract

    Stressors are inherent in high risk work environments (e.g. jobs with an increased likelihood of exposure to traumatic events and bodily harm), but it is important to try and understand how stressors in these environments can be minimized or controlled for. A highly stressful work environment can impede high risk employees (e.g. law enforcement personnel, military personnel, and firefighters) from returning to a sense of normalcy during their time off and it is associated with an increased risk of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Research on the psychological resilience of individuals in high risk occupations can help us understand how such individuals are able to handle and sometimes thrive in these dangerous jobs. Psychological resilience is one’s capability to both mentally and emotionally deal with and subsequently recover from a crisis. This paper aims to synthesize and evaluate the current literature on the occupational factors that affect the psychological resilience of high risk occupational workers, especially in relation to mental health concerns like PTSD. For example, individuals in law enforcement, the military, and firefighters might benefit from the encouragement of team-work, humour, mindfulness, optimism, and self-compassion to increase their psychological resilience. However, the current literature has not properly conceptualized the term: psychological resilience, leading to continued discourse in the field. In addition, longitudinal research that addresses psychological resilience in the area of high risk occupations is lacking, with studies generally focusing on coping strategies and the implications of stress on high risk occupational workers. Further, the current literature of psychological resilience focuses heavily on military occupations, when more attention needs to be given to law enforcement and firefighters. Given recent events surrounding the misuse of force in law enforcement and the high rates of suicide in law enforcement, it is troubling to see a lack of mental health literature regarding this occupation. Other high-risk occupations, like firefighters, seem to be often overlooked as well, despite research showing that they are vulnerable to similar types of mental health issues. In this paper, I will summarize the current literature and provide recommendations for future directions for research on psychological resilience in these three high risk occupations.

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