Why are workplace social support programs not improving the mental health of Canadian correctional officers? An examination of the theoretical concepts underpinning support

Publication type
Journal article
Authors
Jessiman-Perreault G, Smith PM, Gignac MA
Date published
2021 Mar 01
Journal
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Volume
18
Issue
5
Pages
2666
Open Access?
Yes
Abstract

In Canada, public safety personnel, including correctional officers, experience high rates of mental health problems. Correctional officers occupational stress has been characterized as insidious and chronic due to multiple and unpredictable occupational risk factors such as violence, unsupportive colleagues and management, poor prison conditions, and shift work. Given the increased risk of adverse mental health outcomes associated with operational stressors, organizational programs have been developed to provide correctional officers with support to promote mental well-being and to provide mental health interventions that incorporate recovery and reduction in relapse risk. This paper uses two theories, the Job Demand Control Support (JDCS) Model and Social Ecological Model (SEM), to explore why workplace social support programs may not been successful in terms of uptake or effectiveness among correctional officers in Canada. We suggest that structural policy changes implemented in the past 15 years have had unintentional impacts on working conditions that increase correctional officer workload and decrease tangible resources to deal with an increasingly complex prison population. Notably, we believe interpersonal support programs may only have limited success if implemented without addressing the multilevel factors creating conditions of job strain