The psychological impacts due this past summer’s wildfires continue to be felt within the region.
“People’s anxiety is high. There’s a lot of triggers that still happen when people smell smoke,” says Janice Breck, Executive Director at the Canadian Mental Health Association Cariboo-Chilcotin Branch.
“There’s still a lot of impacts from the wildfires and affects on their mental health, not just their physical health and sometimes people don’t even realize they might be more irritable, want to withdraw more, or lack of motivation, tired all the time.”
Breck says that even children from what she has been told are acting out more and being triggered still asking questions and wanting to play firemen more.
“We have a homeless outreach worker who says that even though people may not be sleeping on the streets so much, the homelessness in terms of people staying with friends or couch surfing has increased since the fires,” she adds.
Resources that were already stretched thin at the Branch have been stretched even thinner because of the fires with staff also affected and some going on stress leave.
The Branch according to Breck has 2 full-time and 2 part-time counselors and are looking to add more to help with the increase in requests for counseling. The Branch has 2 family solution counselors who offer counseling as well as a crisis in counseling team that operate the crisis line.
“You deal with crises as they come up but this is a long-term one,” says Breck.
“We surmise that this impact is going to be for a couple of years. We haven’t even seen the effects on the first responders and I imagine that’s still going to take some time because they get got still caught up in the day to day things that they need to do.”
Breck imagines that it will be happening over the next year adding we will have to see what happens when the spring comes.
“I just did a workshop Tuesday and people were saying that people freak out even still when people are doing burning and there’s snow on the ground. It’s that kind of thing that we’re going to be dealing with for quite some time.”