Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MSc)


Kinesiology and Physical Education


Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Dr. Paula Fletcher

Advisor Role


Second Advisor

Dr. Margaret Schneider

Advisor Role




OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this study was to examine the lived experiences of frontline police personnel of a mid-sized police service in Southern Ontario. As the prevalence of mental illness increases, so do the calls for assistance to police services. Police officers often find themselves on the frontline and are often the first responders to mental health calls when an individual is in crisis (Wells & Schafer, 2006). With the majority of current research being quantitative in nature, this qualitative study allowed the voice of frontline police personnel to be heard in order to provide a complete picture of police response to mental health calls for service. Furthermore, this study included communications personnel, which are an important group that has often been overlooked in previous studies, but are instrumental in police response to all calls for service. METHODS: The lived experiences of fourteen participants were examined using in-depth, semi-structured interviews with heuristic phenomenology as a guiding theoretical orientation. The participants were placed into one of three groups based on his/her current role within the police service with the total number of participants within the groups as follows: police officers (n = 7), administrators (n = 3) and communicators (n = 4). Four research questions were examined through fifteen interview questions. RESULTS: Upon detailed analysis of the interviews, several themes and subthemes emerged from the data across all groups of participants. Each theme was found to play an important role in in responding to mental health calls. The themes included: (1) Interaction of roles on mental health calls; (2) Challenges relating to mental health calls; (3) Strategies for responding to mental health calls; and (4) Coping and aftermath. Four subthemes emerged relating to challenges when responding to mental health calls: (i) Perceived increase in mental health calls for service; (ii) Lack of training; (iii) Type of training; (iv) The broken system. CONCLUSIONS: Officers and communicators often find themselves as the first responders to individuals suffering from a mental illness who are in crisis. Hopefully this study has created an increased awareness of the role that frontline police personnel play when responding to mental health calls for service, some of the challenges that they face, and their voices will continue to be heard as policy makers and stakeholders make improvements and adjustments to the current system in the future.

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