Date of Award

12-2018

Culminating Project Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Higher Education Administration: Ed.D.

Department

Educational Administration and Higher Education

College

School of Education

First Advisor

Steven McCullar

Second Advisor

Jessie Breyer-Peterson

Third Advisor

Jennifer Jones

Fourth Advisor

Krista Soria

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

suicide, education, social cognitive theory, public safety, emergency responder, emergency medical services

Abstract

The primary purpose of this quantitative study is to understand suicide among emergency responders. The secondary purpose is to examine how educators can use information about suicide among emergency responders to develop and adapt curriculum to mitigate psychological trauma experienced by those in emergency medical services (EMS), the fire service, and law enforcement. I use social cognitive theory to investigate responder suicide and as a framework to understand the role of education. Official death records were cross-referenced with data possessed by responder credentialing agencies. I analyzed the records to determine the suicide rates of responders compared to the general population and a matched set of responders who did not die of suicide. I also analyzed educational factors hypothesized to confer protection against psychological trauma and suicide, including EMS credential level, academic education level, attainment of firefighter or law enforcement training, and various combinations of credential, education, and fire or police training. The findings suggest that emergency responders have a higher suicide rate compared to the general population. Responders who die by suicide generally have higher levels of education. Being a responder without an EMS credential confers the most protection while the interactive effects of credential and education have significant (p < .05) association with suicide. The impact of psychological trauma is the same regardless of the responder field of practice.

Comments/Acknowledgements

I would first and foremost like to thank my wife, Nancy, for her love and support throughout the last several years while working on my degree. When she wrote in a card “I love you and will support you if you decide to go to school until you’re 100 years old,” she may or may not have realized the gravity of the situation. I would also like to thank my daughter, Bethany, who proofread and double-checked my descriptive statistics—more than once.

I extend my sincere appreciation to J. Corey Fitzgerald, my fellow traveler along the doctoral path, who served as my confidante, peer reviewer, format guru, and friend.

Thanks to my dissertation committee, a group of dedicated professionals, who pushed me to be better and made a good project great.

In memory of Mary Caulkins, Jeremy Caulkins, Sean Shevik, Tim Hopkins, Michael Somes, Gregg Hicks, Phillip Miller, Chris Metzler, Curt Parsons, and the millions of others who have died by suicide. Your deaths were not in vain—I won’t let them be.

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