‘I’m not sick!…Are you?’ Groupthink in police services as a barrier to collecting mental health data

Published date01 December 2021
Date01 December 2021
Subject MatterArticles
‘I’m not sick! ...Are you?’ Groupthink in
police services as a barrier to collecting
mental health data
Rosemary Ricciardelli
Sociology, Humanities and Social Sciences, Memorial University, Canada
Stephen M. Czarnuch
Emergency Medicine, Memorial University, Canada
Nic Kuzmochka
Memorial University, Canada
Krystle Martin
Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences, Canada
Despite the high prevalence of mental disorders among Canadian police officers, treatment-seeking is lower than
expected. Toward understanding how mental health services can be tailored for higher utilization by police, we aim to
uncover factors that contribute to stigma and barriers to use, specifically within the context of group dynamics between
officers. Nine semi-structured focus groups and one interview were conducted with civilian and non-civilian police service
employees in Ontario, Canada. Data were coded to allow for themes to emerge from the transcripts. Participant voices
(n¼33) revealed the presence of three characteristics of Janis’ groupthink: high group cohesion, conditions that create
high stress and low self-esteem, and operating under directive leadership; each creating pressures that serve as barriers to
treatment-seeking [Janis IL (1972) Victims of Groupthink: A Psychological Study of Foreign-Policy Decisions And Fiascoes. Boston:
Houghton Mifflin]. Groupthink offers a potential explanation about why police, despite a high prevalence of mental
disorders and access to mental health service s, do not seek treatment as expected. Janis’s theor y of groupthink is
supported by police officer dialogue in focus groups. Understanding police group interactions can better inform
prevention and treatment programs, ultimately leading to better access and use of existing mental health services, a
reduction in stigma associated with treatment-seeking, and a healthier police workforce.
Mental health, barriers to care, treatment-seeking, groupthink, police
Submitted 14 Apr 2020, Revise received 14 Apr 2020, accepted 03 Jul 2020
The psychological strain inherent to the police profession
and the effect of this strain on officers have come to the
forefront of police research (Crank, 2004; Duxbury et al.,
2015; Rabe-Hemp, 2009; Ricciardelli, 2018). Understand-
ing and treating psychological strain is an objective of
Corresponding author:
Rosemary Ricciardelli, Sociology, Humanities and Social Sciences,
Memorial University, 230 Elizabeth Ave, AA 4066, A1C 5S7, St. John’s,
Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.
Email: rricciardell@mun.ca
International Journalof
Police Science & Management
ªThe Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/14613557211008473
2021, Vol. 23(4) 331–344

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