By Shirin Rajaee

PARADISE (CBS13) — The terrifying images and the trauma people are experiencing with these devastating California wildfires is taking a toll.

As the death count in the Camp Fire continues to rise and the grim search for the missing is underway, there are thousands of people dealing with post-traumatic stress.

“This does break our psyche because everyone says, ‘I didn’t think this would happen to me,'” said Mindi Russell, senior chaplain with the Law Enforcement Chaplaincy in Sacramento.

Russell says as we try to process it all, it’s important not to neglect our mental well being.

“There are people that don’t have feeling right now, they’re in a numb stage, they’re in survival mode right now,” said Russell.

READ: Rebuilding Paradise: City Council Holds First Meeting Since Camp Fire Wiped The Town Out

People are in the shock stage she says, but the psychological impacts — the post-traumatic stress — from this horrific tragedy must be dealt with.

“There’s a lot of anxiety because every day we’re hearing more bodies found, more people missing,” she said.

Russel shared some symptoms to look out for.

“What we can look out for to know we’re impacted, is to look for the extremes. Crying is OK, but uncontrollable crying not OK. Being hyper vigilante, being alert is OK, but not being able to settle down, is not,” said Russell.

ALSO: Volunteers Work To Reunite Hundreds Of Pets Lost In Camp Fire

What can people do right now to help their mental state?

“Break a sweat, take a walk, do some diversion activities,” said Russell.

She added that writing in a journal and documenting how you’re doing and progressing is also helpful.

She adds, “You can think about it (the trauma), but then re-frame it, in a way that’s positive.”

READ: Search Teams Sift Through Assisted Living Home In Paradise; Death Toll Now 48

Russell says amid the uncertainty and pain — our mental strength is what matters.

“Deal with the post-traumatic stress now, seek help with someone you know can help you, instead of waiting and you injured yourself even more,” she said.

This is the time for victims to tell their stories with people who will listen to them, who will validate where they are emotionally right now. Russell also says it’s important to not think too far ahead but to make plans day by day to avoid getting more overwhelmed.

Shirin Rajaee


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