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Laval researchers in Fort McMurray to study PTSD effects

Two researchers from Laval University are in Fort McMurray trying to learn how best to treat people affected by PTSD brought on by disasters.

The research will go towards advising how best to provide mental health support

Two researchers from Laval University say many will be affected from PTSD after the Fort McMurray fire and evacuation. (CBC)

On the fateful day the fire hit Fort McMurray many expected the worst. 

The threat of loss — death or the death of loved ones — takes a toll.

It's the reason two researchers from the School of Psychology at Laval University in Quebec have made their way to the site of Canada's most costly disaster.

"Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can happen in life-changing stressful events, where people worry that they, or their families, are going to be hurt," said Camille Pepin, a 24-year-old graduate student.

She said while many will not be affected by the disorder, for others "the symptoms are going to arise later."

The fire, which became known as the 'Beast,' was sparked in early May of this year and forced over 90,000 from their homes. During the evacuation some faced massive flames on either side of Highway 63 as they fled. 

Those are the stories the researchers hope to hear. 

Camille Pepin and Laura Emilie Savage are in Fort McMurray conducting PTSD research. (Facebook)

Pepin and her research partner Laura-Émilie Savage hope the information they gather will help provide better mental health support to people affected by future disasters. 

"The aim of this project is to be able to make some adaptive advice to, for example, the government or the authorities so that adaptive services can be sent to disasters like Fort McMurray," said Pepin. 

The project is being funded by Laval University.

The two arrived in Fort McMurray a few days ago and will be conducting in-depth interviews with anyone willing to talk to them about the evacuation. 

There is also an online survey people can fill out. 

This is the first time either of the researchers have been to Fort McMurray, so to get the lay of the land they drove around the city. Pepin said she and Savage were shocked to see the damage in Beacon Hill, Waterways and Abasand.

"A big disaster, as the fire and the evacuation, it is big to swallow and difficult to cope and sometimes people don't know who to talk to," she said. 

If the research goes as planned, they hope people in the future won't be left in that situation again. 

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