Mental Health & Neurology

Post-Doctoral Fellowships

United Kingdom

Impact on wellbeing of exposure to traumatic material in “back office” police and law enforcement staff

There is a growing concern in international media, governments and academic researchers on the mental “ill-health” of law enforcement personnel and other staff employees working within the criminal justice system. First responders and front-line police officers can suffer from exposure to traumatic material and research has revealed that criminal justice personnel are at high risk of burnout, vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue, post-traumatic stress disorder and secondary traumatic stress.
Many “back-office” roles – such as crime and intelligence analysts, digital forensic analysts, online undercover police officers, translators and researchers are exposed to traumatic material. Criminal justice system staff whose daily tasks involve exposure to traumatic material such as, descriptions and footage of sexual violence, abduction, torture and murder are at high risk of reporting intrusive thoughts, emotional numbness and physical exhaustion, cognitive shifts, hypervigilance, reduced intimacy, social isolation and mistrust of others. There is limited research comparing front-line and back-office exposure to traumatic material at work.

AXA Research Fund grantee Dr Fazeelat Duran, from the University of Birmingham (UK), aims to bridge that gap: “I’ve always wished to improve the wellbeing of people who help the others” – she explains. She plans to conduct a novel study with back-office staff using a combination of methodological approaches and a longitudinal design in the UK within which a group of employees exposed to traumatic material and a group, non-exposed to such material, will be followed simultaneously over 18 months. A cross-sectional international survey will also help to understand the mechanisms for psychological harm. This new knowledge will help improve mental health and wellbeing by providing recommendations for workplace interventions and prevent the effects of exposure to traumatic material through work. This research will identify the necessary training and psychoeducation to support at-risk staff and those managing them, as well as the need for mandatory counselling and the physical changes to the workplace environment. “These recommendations will be communicated alongside our research findings through a policy briefing”, Dr Duran carries on. With her team, she will arrange and host a series of workshops with law enforcement and justice agencies in the UK and in Europe to disseminate the findings to a wide practitioner audience. Dr Duran aspires to be a world-leader in applied psychology and has developed considerable experience of conducting research with front-line staff. “I believe that research should be translated into real-world outcomes that are positive for the people we study” she adds. Dr Duran and her team intend to extend this research to other at-risk occupational groups, such as those working in different criminal justice settings and other industries that are exposed to traumatic material.



University of Birmingham


United Kingdom



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