British Columbians need mental health support after natural disasters: Experts

It’s a scene British Columbians have become all too familiar with: natural disasters in November. Ria Renouf is hearing from experts who say flooding, fire and mudslides can take a toll on your mental health.

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If your mental health has suffered after the past few weeks of floods and mudslides, experts suggest getting help sooner rather than later.

Two professionals say it can take months, or even years, for symptoms to surface after traumatic events like living through natural disasters.

Pamela Findling with the Canadian Mental Health Association of B.C. says the issue can be compounded by the fact that there’s more extreme weather to come.

Flooding across the province has prevented people from returning to their evacuated homes, causing added stress for many British Columbians.

“With the flooding, people have had to evacuate their homes, and there’s been a loss of livestock, a loss of land, a loss of homes,” she said. “It has been one thing after another in the past few weeks. It wasn’t just one flood. It was a series of systems coming through.”


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Doomscrolling and absorbing the news is taking a toll on people too, she said.

If you don’t take care of your wellbeing, “You might feel fidgety, anxious, stressed, tired. You might be irritable. Your stomach might be upset. You might have a headache,” said Findling.

In agreement with Findling, an expert from Mount Royal University said some of the people she interviewed about their experiences in the Fort McMurray wildfires are still trying to find their emotional footing.

“It is very, very normal to experience trauma, to feel that it is overwhelming, and it’s important that not only individuals recognize this and pause and access resources that they need, but also that organizations adapt,” said Dr. Caroline McDonald-Harker, director of the Centre for Community Disaster Research at the university.

She adds not everyone’s experience will be linear. It can take years to recover.

That’s why it’s important to not let mental disturbances fester, she says.

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