Policing: An International Journal
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Purpose: This study will provide a preliminary, general overview of Canadian police officers’ perception of stigma toward mental illness in their workplace culture and its impacts.
Design/methodology/approach: This study uses a mixed methods approach with two nationwide datasets: a self-report survey (N=727) and 116 semi-structured interviews with police officers from 31 police services. Results are grounded in theories of stigma, masculinities, and organizational culture.
Findings: Results indicate that most officers believe stigma toward mental illness in their workplace remains, despite senior management messaging and program implementation. Reporting mental illness was often seen as high risk, both personally and professionally. Policewomen, constables, and those on leave reported statistically significant higher levels of perceived stigma and risk. Features of traditional masculinity were commonly reported, influencing the way individuals viewed themselves (self-stigma) and organizational response (structural stigma). Those with lived experience reported the highest levels of self and structural stigmatization, which often negatively impacted their recovery.
This study strengthens our understanding of how organizational culture and structure combine to contribute to the persistent presence of stigma in some Canadian police services (with implications for male-dominated occupations generally). Gender, rank, years of service and lived experience are additional areas of limited scholarship addressed by this study. The findings have important implications for effective program and policy evaluation and development.
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