De nombreux membres du personnel de la sécurité publique (PSP) subissent des traumatismes directement ou indirectement dans le cadre de leur travail, mais il reste des obstacles à l’accès aux soins ou à la recherche d’aide.
Background Many public safety personnel (PSP) experience trauma directly or indirectly in their occupational role, yet there remain barriers to accessing care or seeking help. Aims To understand how PSP interpret different potentially traumatic events and how perceived eligibility for being traumatized is determined among PSP. Methods We analysed open-ended comments provided by over 800 PSP in a survey designed to assess the prevalence of post-traumatic stress injuries and other mental disorders. Results We found evidence that a trauma hierarchy may exist among PSP. Certain experiences may be interpreted as more traumatic, based on both the event and the PSP role in the actual event. For example, involvement in a shooting may be interpreted as more traumatic than arriving on the scene later. Similarly, a single event may be deemed more traumatic than an accumulation of events. The role of the individual and social context in shaping experiences and interpretations of trauma may be largely ignored in line with confirmation biases. Conclusions The role that individuals and social contexts play in shaping experiences and interpretations of trauma appear suppressed by perceptions of a trauma hierarchy, facilitating systematic discrediting or valuation of some experiences, therein evidencing that trauma is subjective and reinforcing barriers to care seeking. A trauma hierarchy may also propagate stigma and legitimize discrimination regarding mental health. We argue that recognizing, engaging with, and dismantling the perception of a trauma hierarchy may help create a respectful and open occupational culture supportive of mental health needs.