Canadian Mental Health Association encourages resiliency skills building to cope with stress caused by natural disasters.
With British Columbia bracing itself for what could be another intense wildfire season, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) will be hosting a series of free community talks aimed at helping people build resilience and find ways to safeguard and manage their mental health in the face of stressors associated with extreme weather and natural disasters.
The community talks will take place in 25 communities in the Interior and Northern British Columbia between July and October 2019. These events will focus on normalizing the experience of stress and anxiety due to wildfires, smoky skies and flooding and on helping local citizens connect and talk about their experiences coping with the mental health impacts of actual or anticipated events. The talks will also help them learn how to support family members, including children and youth.
Many British Columbians are still dealing with stress and emotional trauma experienced during the wildfires of 2017 and 2018 while, at the same time, anticipating possible future alerts and evacuations. There are obvious stressors, such as alerts and evacuations or being separated from friends and family, but even living under smoke-filled skies for prolonged periods can cause distress.
“We know that natural disasters are recognized to have an immense impact on emotional health and it’s expected that those affected will experience varying degrees of psychological distress, sometimes soon after and sometimes longer after the event,” says Jonny Morris, CEO of Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division. “It’s normal to have difficulty managing our feelings after major traumatic events. Recognizing the symptoms of stress and understanding these natural responses can help us cope better with our feelings, thoughts and behaviours.”
“The unfortunate reality is that extreme weather conditions are becoming the new normal in BC and just as we focus on physical protection, it’s necessary to look at psychological protection, too. The good news, however, is that resiliency is not something you either have or don’t have. It is something we can build and strengthen by learning new skills to help us deal with stressful situations more effectively.”
Each talk will be tailored to that community’s specific needs, providing tips for dealing with stress and worry and identifying local community services and supports that can help local residents.
In addition to the community talks, CMHA will be delivering Living Life to the Full courses in Prince George, South Cariboo, South Okanagan, Shuswap and Cariboo Chilcotin throughout the fall and winter. Living Life to the Full is a 12-hour group-based resilience building course based on the principles of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), an evidence-based therapy approach which has been proven successful in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Trained facilitators use group activities to identify and work on improving feelings, moods and behaviours, designed to engage participants at their comfort level, and inspire them to shift how they respond to stresses in their lives.
Funding for the talks and courses is provided by the Province of BC.
Click here for a list of community talks in British Columbia (new dates will be added as they are confirmed).
For more information and tips on coping with disaster stress go to www.BCDisasterStress.ca
If you are struggling right now, confidential support and crisis lines are available 24/7:
- KUU-US Indigenous Line 1-800-588-8717 www.kuu-uscrisisline.ca
- Interior BC Crisis Line 1-888-353-2273 – chat and text services available www.interiorcrisisline.com
- Northern BC Crisis Line 1-888-562-1214 crisis-centre.ca
- BC Mental Health Support Line 310-6789 (no area code required) www.crisislines.bc.ca
About the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA)
CMHA is Canada’s most established mental health charity and the nation-wide leader and champion for mental health. CMHA helps people access the resources they need to maintain and improve mental health, build resilience, and support recovery from mental illness. For mental health and substance use information and resources visit www.cmha.bc.ca
Communications Coordinator – Media, CMHA BC Division
P: 604-688-3234 ext. 6326