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

Semi loses wheel, causes collision

No injuries in collision east of Sicamous involving transport trucks

Young Salmon Arm athletes gear up for the 2018 BC Winter Games

20 competitors across five events vying for the podium in Kamloops

Documentary features Salmon Arm cinema

Out of the Interior shines a spotlight on the Salmar Classic

ALR review may not be open-minded

Past agriculture minister Norm Letnick skeptical of NDP approach

Technology Meet Up showcases full range of tech-industry careers in the Shuswap

Salmon Arm Economic Development Society spotlights high-tech frontrunners

Your Feb. 21 Morning Brief

Check out the top stories of the day in the Okanagan-Shuswap with Carmen Weld’s Black Press Morning Brief.

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Video: B.C. firefighters featured in quirky video

Oliver Fire Department posts video about their B.C. volunteer firefighter spring training seminar

OLYMPIC ROUNDUP: Two more medals push Canada into second place

A gold in ski cross and a bronze in bobsleigh as men’s hockey advances to the semis

Trudeau reiterates denial of Sikh separatists in cabinet, condemns extremism

“We will always stand against violent extremism, but we understand that diversity of views is one of the great strengths of Canada.”

Canada wins gold in men’s ski cross

Leman earns redemption with ski cross gold; Homan out early

Trump says more must be done to protect children

In a tweet Tuesday night, Trump indicated he wants to strengthen the background check system, but offered no specifics.

Evangelist Billy Graham has died at 99

Graham died Wednesday morning at his home in Montreat, North Carolina.

Most Read