Peer Support Facilitates Post-Traumatic Growth in First Responders: A Literature Review

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Donovan, Nicole
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Introduction: First responders are routinely exposed to traumatic workplace incidents that can result in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). First responder organizations utilize different types of peer led programs to support first res ponders following a critical incident including the Critical Incident Stress Management Program (CISM) and stand-alone peer support programs. Little research has been done to determine the benefits or limitations of stand-alone peer support programs on the mental health of first responders. The aim of this project was to understand what characteristics of peer support facilitate post-traumatic growth (PTG) in first responders. Methods: A literature search was completed using the City University of Seattle library database, ResearchGate and Google Scholar. The studies used in this review were found on EBCSOhost, ProQuest, PubMed and Wiley Online. This review includes literature published since 2006 that references post-traumatic growth in first responders, and/or their preferences for support, their coping styles and organizational impacts on growth. Thematic analysis was conducted to identify the themes and patterns in the final 10 research papers. Results: This literature review identified five themes of formal and informal peer interactions that support PTG in first responders. (1) Peer support assists first responders with the processing of traumatic events and (2) managing orga nizational stressors. (3) Peer support alone may not lead to PTG and requires the use of adaptive coping behaviours. (4) First responders who actively engage with peer support experience increased well-being and (5) relational safety with peers encourages disclosure that leads to post-traumatic growth. Conclusion: Formal and informal peer support contribute to post-traumatic growth (PTG) in first responders. Further research needs to be done to differentiate between the effects of trained peer support and support from colleagues.
critical incident stress debriefings , first responder , peer support , post-traumatic growth , post-traumatic stress disorder , social support
Donovan, Nicole. “Peer Support Facilitates Post-Traumatic Growth in First Responders: A Literature Review.” Trauma, Mar. 2022, doi:10.1177/14604086221079441.