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October 27, 2017 4:38 pm

Coping With the Stress of the Wildfire Situation

Thursday, July 13, 2017 @ 5:57 AM

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.




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