Coping With the Stress of the Wildfire Situation
Prince George, B.C. – These are stressful times for the thousands who have been forced from their homes because of the wildfires, and the disaster can also take a toll on one’s mental health.
Maureen Davis, Executive Director of the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Prince George Branch says this is an incredibly stressful time for the evacuees “There is so much uncertainty. They’ve left so much behind. They might be worried about loved ones they haven’t been able to connect with or find. If they have four legged or two legged creatures in their lives that, furs and feathers, they might be very concerned if they are going to be ok, and then all of the property they’ve left behind that they’ve put all their heart and soul and love into , is it going to be there when I get back?”
She says it’s a complete change with nothing familiar around and virtually no privacy as they are now sleeping along with more than a hundred others in the same room.
She says evacuees should try to reduce the amount of information that is being absorbed by their children “We can almost talk about it or have the news or media on so much we don’t really realize the impact it’s having ( on children) . If we can limit that exposure for the young ones, and present as calm a front as we can, and be telling them it’s going to be o.k.”
While evacuees have many things on their mind, local are also expressing concern and nervousness about the wildfire situation “Understandably so” says Davis, “Any of us who have had any experience with fires, know how unpredictable they can be.” She says for a lot of people, it can spark thoughts of preparing for the worst, just in case “That could be getting all your ducks in a row, for instance if you know your medication will run out in a week, making sure that is looked after.” She says once the preparations are complete, it’s important to focus on “your day to day life and the loved ones around you. Helping out if you can, as volunteering can help a great deal right now, there are a lot of people in need in our community” and don’t add any more stress to one’s life right now.
Davis says if P.G. residents connect with an evacuee, the simplest thing to ask is “Is there anything you need, anything I can help with right now? Just leave the door open for them. For the evacuees it can be really important to talk and just share what’s going on.”
There is a Mental Health team situated at the CNC Evacuation reception centre says Davis, “Please, for anyone who is feeling the stress is taking them to a really bad place, please go and connect with that team. They can always call us as well, 250-564-8644 and we’ll help out as best we can.”
The Canadian Mental Health Association BC offers a number of tips for coping through a natural disaster the full document can be accessed here.