I want to help foreign-aid workers after they've come home

Credit: Amélie Philibert - Benoît Gougeon

In 5 seconds

Julie Saint-Laurent studies post-traumatic stress disorder among workers who’ve returned from abroad.

My thesis looks at the factors that predispose humanitarian workers to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder. I polled 250 aid workers who had returned from abroad. Fifteen per cent of them, almost double the rate among the general populace, reported symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, irritability and signs of depression.

In the field, aid workers are exposed to all kinds of stressful and traumatic situations: arrest by an armed militias, kidnapping, serious injury, and more.  Even if they’re only witnesses to an event, not a direct victim, PTSD can manifest itself.

Of course, once they get home, aid workers aren’t left to fend for themselves; they get the support of the organizations they work for. But because their needs aren’t well-known, that support isn’t always enough. That’s where my research can help. By better understanding their reality, it will be easier to find ways to make them feel better.

Julie Saint-Laurent

To find out more

Thesis supervisor


  • Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail


  • Saint-Laurent, J., and S. Guay. “Risk factors for the development of post-traumatci symptomatology among humanitarian aid workers”, 2016. [Draft, pre-publication].
  • Saint-Laurent, J., and S. Guay. “Development and validation of a chronic stress questionnaire for humanitarian aid workers”, 2015. [Article submitted for publication].
  • Saint-Laurent, J. «L’influence de la culture sur les réactions post-traumatiques», Traumag, no. 8, May 2015, p. 4.
  • Saint-Laurent, J., and others. «Les impacts psychologiques de la fusillade du 13 septembre 2006 au Collège Dawson», Ressources et vous, Société de criminologie du Québec, March 2013.


In the media

Interview by Mathieu-Robert Sauvé

Media contact