Five-year-old Chloe Preece and her parents try to block out the thick smoke with a mask while watching firefighters battle flames in the Arbor Lee condo units in Vernon where they live. The fire was contained to eight units and did not damage their home. (Jennifer Smith/Morning Star)

Mental health important during fires

With all the wildfires, plus local incidents and smoke, be sure to safeguard your mental health

Being forced from one’s home by a natural disaster is a rare occurrence that most of us will never face. However, tens of thousands of British Columbians are going through this upheaval right now as hundreds of wildfires burn throughout the province. Mental health experts warn that the emotional toll of disaster can be as devastating as the financial strains of damage and loss of home, business or personal property.

“Natural disasters can be extremely traumatic and overwhelming for people. While most people will get through these hard times, for others it may be very hard to cope and the disaster can spark a bigger ongoing mental health problem,” said Bev Gutray, CEO of the CMHA’s BC Division. “After you safeguard your physical health and that of other people and pets, it’s important to take care of your mental health as well.”

There are a number of simple, practical steps you can take to protect your mental health and to support vulnerable family members such as children and older adults.

“With heavy smoke in the Vernon area, it’s important that we take extra steps to check in with children who may be scared or worried. It is important to understand the effect stress can have on a child’s behaviour and reassure them that you will keep them safe,” said Julia Payson, CMHA Vernon and District executive director.

For those who are struggling to cope right now, the Vernon Crisis Line is open to talk people through the problem 24 hrs a day at 1-888-353-2273.

CMHA’s Coping Through Natural Disasters mental health tips are available now for sharing, downloading and printing in the hopes of supporting those British Columbians currently in harm’s way.

Some of the tips include:

· Limit your exposure to coverage of the disaster. Repeatedly viewing traumatic images over and over can overwhelm your nervous system, making it harder to think clearly.

· Expect children to need more contact and reassurance. They may be clingy, act out with disruptive behaviour, or return to habits from an earlier age such as thumb-sucking or bed-wetting.

· Older adults, people who live alone or have serious health conditions will need more support. Reaching out to isolated people can be a huge help as their routines and supports are disrupted.

Just Posted

Okanagan Wildfires: An afternoon update on wildfires and evacuations

A Sunday afternoon look at the major wildfires impacting the Okanagan and Similkameen.

VIDEO: Sailing under the sun at the BC Games

Maple Bay in the Cowichan Valley was host to dozens of athletes sailing on small prams to planing dinghys

BC Wildfire holding steady on Okanagan Complex

Evening update on Okanagan fire situation

Wild fires blaze in the Okanagan, in your words

We have compiled a community photo album of your wildfire photos

Power couple speed into top spot at L’Alpe de Grand Blanc at Big White

The professional riders have been training all year

All-Indigenous teams break new ground, making BC Games history

This is the first time there have been dedicated Indigenous teams at the BC Summer Games

Why do they do it? Coaches guide kids to wins, personal bests at the BC Games

Behind the 2,300 B.C. athletes are the 450 coaches who dedicate time to help train, compete

Reel Reviews: Floundering inferno

We quote Charlie Brown: “Good grief!”

UPDATE: Five taken to hospital following one of two Coquihalla accidents

One airlifted in critical condition, four taken via ambulance in stable condition

Ottawa fails to find alternative buyer for Trans Mountain pipeline by deadline

The feds had announced it was purchasing the $4.5 billion pipeline earlier this spring

Government sets full-time salary range for Justin Trudeau’s nanny

At its top range, the order works out to a rate of $21.79 per hour, assuming a 40-hour work week

Lower Mainland teams battle for baseball gold at BC Games

Vancouver Coastal squeaked out a 3-2 win against Fraser Valley

The Northern Secwepemc te Qelmucw people signed an agreement-in-principle with the B.C. government

The signing ceremony, at the Eliza Archie Memorial School, was 25 years in the making

Canada to resettle dozens of White Helmets and their families from Syria

There are fears the volunteers would become a target for government troops

Most Read