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Emotional toll: Responding to all needs after the Alberta fires

hugs_460-(1).jpgThe wildfires that ravaged many areas of the northern Alberta community last May were an extremely stressful experience for many people. In the first weeks after the evacuation, besides responding to the basic needs of Fort McMurray evacuees, the Red Cross also deployed a Safety and Well Being Team with expertise in Psychological First Aid.
“Disasters not only bring about physical loss, but often have an impact on mental health, affecting social connections, positive activities and the ability to cope with day-to-day stress. The Red Cross provides emotional support, connections to community resources and a holistic approach to individual, family and community recovery,” explains Judi Frank, Disaster Management Psychosocial Advisor at the Canadian Red Cross.

Even when the worst of the crisis is over, the effects of the psychological stress can have lasting impacts. Ordinary stress can accumulate over time and negatively impact people’s well-being. Extreme stress can seriously affect a person’s health, working ability and private life.
 “Recovery takes time and can be exhausting as you rebuild following a disaster. It is important for you to consider ways to relieve stress, recharge your battery. Even the small things can make a difference,  taking a walk, listening to music or talking to friends – you decide what is best to take care of yourself.”
This is why the Red Cross continues to help individuals and families long after a disaster.  Our efforts aim to help those affected regain a sense of normalcy and guide them to specialized services, including mental health services as needed.
“Recovery means finding a new normal, including what is important and valuable to you,” adds Judi, who assisted in the emergency response and continues to support the residents of Fort McMurray through recovery.
If you ever face a personal disaster, it’s important to find ways of coping. The following can help:
• Recognize your own feelings.
• Give yourself time to recover; it’s natural to grieve.
• Whenever possible, take time off and do something you enjoy; encourage your children to do the same (play, draw pictures, etc.)
• Talk with your children about their feelings and your feelings, and about what happened, providing factual information that they can understand.
• Reassure your children that you are safe and that what happened is not a result of something they have done.

Learn more about Coping with Crisis

Additional resources in Public Health services

Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo

SOS Crisis Line
Some Other Solutions
24 hour confidential crisis support.
Walk-in Counselling Services
10217 Queen Street
Monday to Friday: 9 a.m. to 9:15 p.m.
No appointment required
For more information call: 780-743-7187
Mental Health Services
3rd floor, Northern Lights Regional Health Centre, 7 Hospital Street
Monday to Friday: 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.
For more information or to book an appointment: 780-791-6194
Borealis Counselling
Counselling Services & Mindfulness for Wellbeing Program & Group Support
Phone: 780-791-1757
Legacy Counselling Centre
Provides interdisciplinary mental health services.
160 Dickens Dr., Fort McMurray
Phone: (587) 536-6619

Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo
Provides confidential and professional counselling to individuals, children, couples and families.
Phone: 780- 743-7910

Wood Buffalo Primary Care Network
Adult Mental Health Services - See individuals referred by their Family Physician.
Phone: 780-788-1765
Nistawoyou Association Friendship Centre
Programs and services building upon traditional Aboriginal values and culture.
8310 Manning Avenue
Phone: 780.743.8555
Alberta provincial resources

Health Link:
Provides advice for health concerns from a registered nurse and information on available mental health and wellness resources.
24/7, Call: 811
Mental Health Help Line:
Provides crisis intervention, information about mental health programs and services and referrals to other agencies if needed.
24/7, Call: 877-303-2642


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