By now, some of the long term effects of the wildfire season have manifested themselves.
We’ve heard of businesses that are suffering, tourism operations that lost out on a full season’s worth of revenue, lost wages, and people who have lost houses and had no insurance on their belongings.
Local aid organizations have come out in full swing. There’s the Cariboo Fires Food & Supply Hub, the South Cariboo Fire Relief Fund and the Wildfire T-shirt fundraiser that as of now has donated over $50,000 to aid organizations and volunteer fire departments throughout the Cariboo.
All of this is amazing and incredibly heartwarming, but there is another need, not financial, that is less talked about.
As we work on wildfire recovery, it’s important to remember the psychological impacts of the season.
The fire season has been incredibly stressful on all of us.
In August, Susann Collins of the 100 Mile & District Women’s Centre reported that there had been an increase in the need of support for women fleeing abuse. At the Canadian Mental Health Association, she said they’d also seen an increased need for mental health support.
At the time, she also said that according to officials in Fort MacMurray, the worst was yet to come.
“What I’ve heard, the most need for support won’t come for a little while, for another month or two, until after things have settled back down, the emergency services are gone and we’re now back to living our lives.”
Cariboo Regional District chair Al Richmond echoed that sentiment when talking recently about recovery needs for the Cariboo Chilcotin.
“At some important times in people’s lives, Christmas is one of them, New Years is one of them. It might be a birthday, it might be an anniversary. They don’t realize they’ve been impacted yet. I want people to understand they probably have been impacted and they should be able to reach out and get that help.”
Anxiety, depression, stress, grief and post-traumatic stress disorder are all very common reactions to an event like the wildfires that the Cariboo faced, according to the CMHA. They can last for months or even years following a traumatic event, like an evacuation.
The CMHA recommends that, short-term, you eat and sleep well, be kind to yourself, take a break, accept support and get back to your daily routine.
At this point, however, they suggest that if you are still facing trouble sleeping or eating, if you are feeling hopeless, showing low energy or crying, are fearful or are avoiding activities or places that remind you of the wildfire, have trouble focusing on daily activities, or have recurring nightmares about the event, you should be asking for help from a professional.
No one should feel ashamed in asking for help.
If you are struggling now, B.C.’s Mental Health Support Line is open 24 hours a day. They can be reached, for free, at 310-6789 (no area code). Otherwise, talk to your doctor or call the local CMHA office at 250-395-4883 for resources.
We wouldn’t abandon our business to flounder, or want our employees to suffer financial hardship because we refused “free money” from the Red Cross. Why would we leave ourselves without that aid?