Psychological consequences and risk factors for first responders, and possible legal ramifications for these organisations 

Guest Editors:  Dr Johnrev Guilaran1 and Dr Ian de Terte2

1University of the Philippines Visayas, Philippines

2Massey University, New Zealand


Individuals who work as a first responder are a greater risk of being exposed to potentially traumatic events.   First responders are people who, because of their work, are the first to arrive at the scene of an emergency. These occupations may include police officers, firefighters, paramedics, military personnel, or emergency health professionals. This is by no means an exhaustive list of potential occupations. However, it is envisaged that first responders attend to the victims, survivors, and/or perpetrators of disasters, accidents, crimes, terrorist attacks, and other critical incidents, which not only exposes them to property and environmental damage but also to human suffering. Exposure to these conditions may be psychologically overwhelming, and research has consistently demonstrated the link between experiencing these events and poor mental health outcomes (e.g., posttraumatic stress disorder). 

Research has also explored the various factors associated with the negative psychological consequences in first responders. There is a wide range of risk and protective factors for these consequences. For example, many studies have identified sociodemographic characteristics and individual differences, such as age, gender, and training to be linked with these psychological outcomes. Furthermore, social and organisational factors, such as organisational culture, availability of and access to intervention programmes, and workplace social support have also been found to impact the mental health of first responders.

These mental health outcomes may affect the social and occupational functioning of these professionals, which may have possible legal consequences for their organisations. When first responders experience psychological distress or other forms of mental health issues, it may negatively impact their job performance. For example, it may compromise their judgement during highly stressful situations. Considering how critical their occupations are, any individual or organisational lapses may have profound legal consequences for the organisations they are employed with. However, first responder organisations can also work on preventing the development of these negative psychological consequences. This special issue aims to contribute to the understanding of the interface between the different risk and protective factors associated with psychological consequences for first responders, and the legal consequences and implications for first responder organisations in relation to these psychological consequences.


This special issue will include papers that explore the intersections of psychological consequences of working as a first responder, the risk factors associated with these psychological consequences, and the legal implications for the first responder organisations. We are particularly interested in manuscripts that include, but are not limited to, the following types. However, author(s) will need to address the intersection of psychological consequences of workers who are first responders, the risk factors associated with these consequences, and the wider legal ramifications for first responder organisations. It is vitally important that these papers have an applied focus in that the author(s) suggest evidence-based interventions that organisations can utilise to address these consequences.  

  1. Theoretical papers which explore and critique the link between the psychological consequences for first responders and the legal consequences for their organisations.
  2. Studies that systematically review the literature on the intersection of first responder mental health and the law.
  3. Empirical studies that explore the link between mental health outcomes and legal consequences for first responders.
  4. Empirical studies that test models of prevention, such as organisational intervention, of poor mental health outcomes in first responders, especially from a legal perspective.

We realise that not all first responder researchers will be familiar with the law side of the journal call, but the editors will be in a position to offer advice along these lines. However, as a first step, researchers interested in the topic should consult organisational and government regulations on disability for these workers, compensation. We recognise the variety of first responder types and first responder organisations around the world, and the diversity of social, cultural, and political factors that may influence the first responder mental health and its legal dimensions. With this in mind, we welcome submissions from researchers worldwide. We also welcome contributions, not just from psychology, but from allied disciplines such as criminology, sociology, and the medical sciences.

Submission Process

The submission process will involve two stages. 

  1. The first stage will be the submission of an abstract outlining the proposed manuscript. At this stage, the guest editors will review the abstracts and invite people who best meet the purpose of the special issue to submit full manuscripts. This invitation is no guarantee that the submitted manuscript will be accepted for the special issue. The abstract should be submitted to Dr Johnrev Guilaran ( by 30 April 2021. The guest editors will send out invitations to submit a full manuscript by 31 May 2021. 
  2. The second stage will involve invited authors submitting their manuscript for the special issue. The normal process of manuscript submission to Psychological Injury and Law and peer review will apply. The guidelines for submission may be accessed from the Journal website: The manuscript must be submitted by 31 August 2021. The special issue will be published in 2022.