British Columbia

B.C. launches mental health program to support 2017 wildfire victims

The B.C. government, with some partners, has launched a new mental health program aimed specifically at those who were affected by the 2017 wildfires.

Program has a phone support component and online Facebook page with resources

Wildfire evacuees walk to an evacuation registration centre in Kamloops, B.C., on July 10, 2017. The 2017 B.C. wildfire season was the worst on record. (Darryl Dyck/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The B.C. government in collaboration with several partners has announced a new program to provide mental health supports for those impacted by last year's record-breaking wildfire season.

Judy Darcy, the minister of mental health and addictions, said the program is supposed to help those still suffering from mental health issues related to the events.

"Natural disasters can cause significant stress, and can lead to unexpected mental-health impacts. That's why it is critically important that people are familiar with the mental-health supports and services in place to help them along their healing journey," Darcy said in a statement.

Phone support program

Julia Payson, the executive director for the Canadian Mental Health Association's Vernon branch, said the program has two parts: a Facebook page set up to direct people toward specific services and supports and a phone-based support program. 

"People can call and they get matched with a coach who will go through a certain number of sessions with them and there's workbooks and other supports available to help them manage these low moods, depression, anxiety," Payson said.

Listen to the full interview with Julia Payson:

Current evacuations triggering

Payson said the reason the program is being offered now is because the new fire season is starting up which can trigger stress among last year's evacuees. 

"People who went through the displacements last year may be affected by the new fires, or seeing the new fires, and the symptoms that they've been dealing with may become more acute," she said.

"If [the stress] keeps going and is going longer than a couple of weeks or if it's been 10 months and you're still experiencing this, you really do deserve to get the support that's out there for you to help you heal from this."

Individuals can access the program by calling 1-877-427-4884, visit the Talk in Tough Times Facebook page, view the available resources through online, or call the Mental Health Support Crisis Line at 310-6789 (no area code needed).

With files from Radio West