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Wildfires leading to rise in stress and anxiety, mental health association says

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, for many British Columbians, the feeling of increased stress and anxiety around wildfires, extreme heat and climate change is harming their mental health.

“Natural disasters like wildfires are recognized to have a really immense impact on our mental health and well-being,” said Jonny Morris, CMHA’s B.C. CEO.

“It’s OK to not be OK and feel what you’re feeling.”

“It’s so important to check in with how you’re doing.”

Read more:
Wildfire conditions ahead of schedule, high hazards for Okanagan, south Cariboo: July outlook

With last week’s devastating fire in Lytton, more fires burning throughout the province and the tragic sudden deaths during the heat wave, many people are experiencing a range of feelings.

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“If it’s really taking over and you’re not able to go through with daily life without feeling stuck, it’s really important to reach out for some help,” said Morris.

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Signs of increased stress and waning mental health are not always obvious.

“(Some of the signs of mental health problems are) Big changes in sleep, appetite, irritability, disconnecting from friends, fatigue and feeling like you don’t have the energy,” said Morris.

“If you see any big changes on the outside, it’s a great opportunity to check in on the inside with both yourself and loved ones.“

Read more:
A third of B.C.’s 200 wildfires are burning out of control Monday

CMHA offers a range of services for people that need help.

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“We have confidential mental health support across the province,” Morris told Global News on Wednesday.

“Call 310-6789 and or visit our disaster stress website.”

Read more:
Ontario, NB firefighters arrive in B.C. as nearly 200 wildfires blaze

In the Okanagan, anxiety and stress over wildfire season is all too common — with many homes in interface areas.

“CMHA Kelowna locals can access our virtual counseling, they just need to give us a call,” said Jessica Samuels, CMHA Kelowna’s associate director.

“Let us know this is something you are struggling with. If you’re a young person we have Foundry Kelowna, which we operate.“

CMHA Kelowna said an easy thing for residents to do to help put their mind at ease is to be prepared.

Residents should have an emergency plan ready for quick action.

Click to play video: 'Wildfire damages home, forces evacuations near Oliver'

Wildfire damages home, forces evacuations near Oliver

Wildfire damages home, forces evacuations near Oliver

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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