Recovery From October Wildfires Taking Mental Toll On Victims

SANTA ROSA (CBS13) — The emotional toll of the devastating fires across Northern California are coming to the surface, as a well-known dentist recently took his own life in the ruins of his home that burned down in the Tubbs Fire.

The signs of emotional trauma can take days and sometimes months and years to show up, but when they do, agencies like the Red Cross say they are ready to help victims cope.

It can be hard to find hope amid the devastation.

One fire victim said, “Every picture I had of my kid as a baby is gone. There’s nothing.”

ALSO READ: Man Shoots, Kills Self In Ruins Of Santa Rosa Home Burned In Wildfires

The lives these fire victims once knew are gone, and though they lived through the horror, the heartache can be so heavy it can suffocate the spirit.

“We’re OK, but that doesn’t make me feel any better.”

It’s a long road to recovery, and now that they’ve dug through the ash, fire victims must dig even deeper to deal with the emotional trauma.

That is where the American Red Cross steps in, again. The nonprofit is known best for getting victims of disasters back on their feet with temporary accommodation, food and clothing. In the weeks and months following the devastation, the Red Cross also helps folks get in the right frame of mind.

“We can provide you know more psychological counseling and things like that,” said Steve Walsh with American Red Cross Gold Country Region.

ALSO READ: More Lawsuits Blame PG&E For California Wildfires As Investigation Continues

Recently, authorities confirmed a well-known dentist took his own life in the rubble of his burned down Santa Rosa home. Experts say it’s important to know the signs of emotional stress, which can include difficulty eating and sleeping, bursts of anger and feeling guilty, helpless or hopeless. Then, it’s even more important to reach out for help. The Red Cross says it often refers clients to counseling services and can help pay for those services, as well.

“It basically depends on the circumstance. We’re there as long as we’re needed,” said Walsh.

The Red Cross also partners with the Disaster Distress Helpline, a 24-hour hotline for anyone in a crisis, including victims of disasters and urges anyone who needs to talk to someone to call 1-800-985-5990 or text “talkwithus” to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.

More from Angela Greenwood
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