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How people are learning about stress management one year after B.C. wildfires

By Angela Hill, Canadian Red Cross

While the fire was over, the stress remained in 100 Mile House, a small community in the B.C. interior that evacuated for 16 days during the 2017 wildfires.
Aleta Bryan is the chair of the Peter Skene Ogden Senior Secondary School Parent Advisory Council in 100 Mile House.Aleta Bryan is the chair of the Peter Skene Ogden Senior Secondary School Parent Advisory Council in 100 Mile House. As the community approaches the one year anniversary of the fires, Aleta saw the stress of last summer appear on social media.
“It hits Facebook big time, as soon as there is a plume of smoke anywhere, kids, adults, it doesn’t matter,” she said, adding the smoke could be a controlled burn but it brings back those horrible memories. “As soon as there is any kind of smoke anywhere, it does impact everyone.”
In addition to supporting individuals, families and small business, Red Cross continues to provide funds to organizations that help promote community-driven recovery and resiliency through their Community Partnerships Program. 
Through the Community Partnerships Program, Aleta arranged for Dr. Kristin Buhr a registered psychologist and director at the North Shore Stress and Anxiety Clinic to visit. Dr. Buhr specializes in the assessment and treatment of stress and anxiety, in both adolescents and adults. During five meetings in 100 Mile House and Williams Lake, Dr. Buhr explained to youth, teachers and the public what anxiety is, provided suggestions on how to deal with it in a healthy way, and how to plan for the future. From Grade 4 students, to the mayor, Aleta received very positive feedback on the sessions.
“Dr. Buhr provided some really practical steps on what do we do when the anxiety that we are feeling comes up and that it’s something that we’re maybe going to have to face again. I think it opened a door for conversation and that was my main goal,” Aleta said.
School principal Geoff Butcher has seen the difference having the resources for this dialogue has made.
“I don’t know if we would have done the Red Cross thing without Aleta doing it … for her to step in and organize this for our kids is fantastic,” he said.
On the value of Red Cross Community Partnership Program, Aleta says “we may have been able to work something out, to do something on a much smaller scale, but, I don’t think we would have been able to afford to have her come.”
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