Calgary

Distress Centre calls increase as Fort McMurray evacuees deal with the stress of their escape

​From fleeing the Democratic Republic of Congo to the wildfires of Fort McMurray, evacuee Godelive Ohelo knows about stress.

Some, like Godelive Ohelo who fled civil war when she was young, are having flashbacks to past trauma

Godelive Ohelo talks to CBC News Network on reliving the trauma of her youth while fleeing the flames of Fort McMurray. (CBC)

​From fleeing the Democratic Republic of Congo to the wildfires of Fort McMurray, evacuee Godelive Ohelo knows about stress.

She says the recent fires are bringing back bad memories of a past life.

"It's just nightmares and you're still seeing the fire, you're still panicking, you're waking up with night sweats," she said. 

"To me when I do go back I will probably have to go see a counsellor, because … just seeing all those homes burnt down brings back a lot of my past."

She escaped civil war in the DRC when she was seven-years old and said images of that time, when she lost both her dad and older sister, have come rushing back. 

"It was a really, really hard flashback," she said. 

More calls to Distress Centre

Ohelo's now safe with her daughter in Edmonton, but her stress remains. She's not alone.

"People that have already experienced trauma in their lives — all it takes is an event like this to really bring up emotions and memories and things like that that would've affected them in the past," said Chloe McBean, the crisis program supervisor at Distress Centre Calgary. 

Between May 4 and May 8, the centre received 182 wildfire-related calls to its 211 information line, as evacuees look for help finding services, supplies and counselling.

The number of calls has been growing this week. 

"I don't think it's quite settled in," said William Bedell, who works in the call centre. "I think they're kind of still in a state of shock. I think in the days and weeks to come we'll certainly see the impact everything's had on their mental state. That'll be our next challenge."

With files from the CBC's Allison Dempster