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

Pedestrian hit at ‘dangerous’ Kelowna cross walk

Emergency officials responded to a cross walk that neighbours say is unsafe Saturday evening

Permitted burns in Okanagan mountains

Kelowna Fire Department says please don’t call 911

Pets sit in Santa’s lap

Kelowna - The Okanagan Small Dog Rescue Society held a pet photo opt today

Your weekend highlights

Each week, the Capital News will highlight stories from the week

Comedian/magician visiting Lake Country

Wes Barker is performing at Creekside Theatre, Nov. 25

Drones used in search for clues about missing women

A volunteer search party was supported by professional drone operators

Start on time: Canucks looking to shake first-period struggles

Canucks centre Bo Horvat said the formula for getting a leg up is there for everyone to see

COMMUTER ALERT: Snowfall warnings in effect across B.C.

Travelling this weekend? Check the forecasts before hitting the road

Tips for keeping your personal data safe, from the experts

It’s important to keep your ‘online footprint’ safe

Lights to turn blue ahead of funeral for fallen Abbotsford police officer

Buildings across B.C. are going blue Saturday night in honour of Const. John Davidson

Ride-share pioneer drives up quietly to B.C. battleground

Lyft approaches B.C. without Uber bombast, eyes small towns

Massive monster truck tour held in Kelowna

Traxxas Monster Truck Tour will be here in January, 2018

Boomer radio expands

Kelowna resident Allen Holender continues to expand his network

VIDEO: Rare comic showing Superman’s 1st appearance to be auctioned

The 1938 comic features Superman hoisting a car over his head

Most Read