Preparation, recovery, and also mental wellness was the focus of Wednesday’s Wildfire Information Expo in Williams Lake that saw hundreds attend.
Executive Director at Canadian Mental Health Association Cariboo-Chilcotin Branch, Janice Breck says there is still a lot of fear of what could happen this year because of what we experienced last summer.
“Once we’ve experienced something it’s really tough to put that out of our minds,” says Breck, “so it’s so important to learn how to actually embrace those tough times that may come and go with it. That’s why those coping strategies are so important because they help us to learn who we need to be even in the midst of those struggles that we go through.”
Breck says that she agrees with 150 Mile House Fire Chief Stan McCarthy who encourages anyone going through stress as a new wildfire season approaches to talk to someone.
“That’s the interesting part about stress; sometimes we’re not even aware that it has attached itself to us,” says Breck. “So really looking inward, really recognizing what our behaviors are, are we behaving in a normal fashion how we normally function or is something going on. We were all impacted in one way or another, some definitely more so than others and that’s important to recognize too. And if you’re not impacted watching those around you just to reach out and check in because I think that’s really important for us to do as well this summer.”
Breck adds that their counselors are overwhelmed and they are trying to find additional resources to help deal with the backlog that arose from last summer.
“We haven’t had a lot of responders because they have their own ways of de-stressing,” she says.
“They have their own teams that will come in and talk with them. There’s been a few for sure and if not them then family members are the ones we typically see come in.”
Chief Stan McCarthy says although they have a few members that a still stressed they are dealing with that.
“We do a debriefing on everything so we look after our firemen as well as we can,” he says.
“My members I can’t say enough for them. They’re very resilient.”
The 150 Mile Fire Department is currently in the process of building a training centre that McCarthy hopes will be complete by this year.
The Canadian Mental Health Association has launched a new Facebook initiative Breck says is called ‘Talk in Tough Times’ for people who are struggling with the wildfires.