Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Degges-White, Suzanne

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Counseling and Higher Education (CAHE)


Background: While understaffing and work-related stress are not unusual within first responder professions, the past few years have added additional strain. COVID-19, political and civil unrest, and economic downturn have stretched the first responder workforce thinner than ever, contributing to a reduction in the workforce through death, early retirement, attrition, or decreased vocational effectiveness. Unfortunately, public stereotypes coupled with the tenets of first responder culture have done little to support those who serve. Public perception often involves polarized stereotypes about first responders (e.g., good guys or bad guys, heroes or villains), and first responder culture encourages a machine-like demeanor. The imagery of heroes, villains, and machines is indicative of dehumanization, or denial of some aspect(s) of humanity. The purpose of this study was to examine how first responders’ perceptions of dehumanization (meta-dehumanization) relate to workforce threats including suicidality, burnout, and decreased self-efficacy.

Methodology: A total of 211 first responders from the US and Canada participated in this study by completing two measures of meta-dehumanization, the Suicide Behaviors Questionnaire-Revised, the Burnout subscale of the Professional Quality of Life Scale, and the General Self-Efficacy Scale. Analyses included Pearson product-moment correlation, ANOVAs, and hierarchical regression analyses.

Results: Statistically significant relationships were found between meta-dehumanization for each of the three workforce threats when controlling for time in the profession. Results from ancillary analyses indicated that these relationships continued to be statistically significant even after controlling for country of residence (US or Canada).


163 pages




Northern Illinois University

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