Wildfires, like all disasters, can lead to emotional distress in those that experience them. Survivors living in the impacted areas (including children and teens), loved ones of victims, and first responders, rescue & recovery workers are all at risk. Feelings such as overwhelming anxiety, constant worrying, trouble sleeping and other depression-like symptoms are common responses to disasters and traumatic events (before, during and after the event), although reactions can vary from person-to-person. Most people that experience disasters are able to 'bounce back' in a short period of time, but others may need additional support in order to cope and move forward on the path of recovery.
The Disaster Distress Helpline provides year-round, 24/7 phone- and text-based crisis counseling to anyone who is experiencing emotional distress related to natural or man-made disasters within the U.S. and territories. Those impacted by recent wildfires in Colorado, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming or other states who might be experiencing distress and having difficulty coping can reach out to us any time for support.
Wildfires occurring in/around where you live or work, warnings and evacuation orders, being unable to reach a loved one living in an impacted area during the event, or hearing of a disaster on the news that is similar to a past traumatic experience are all situations that can trigger emotional distress.
Evacuations related to wildfires can be particularly distressing because of their suddenness, the potential to become separated from loved ones or pets (including if pets are left behind or not allowed in shelters), feeling confused, overwhelmed or hopeless ("I don't know where to go"; "I don't know what to expect when I go back") and then the overall strain and stress associated with temporary relocation.
After wildfire evacuation orders are lifted, additional distress may occur upon return to the impacted area if a home, business, school, place of worship or a beloved community landmark such as a neighborhood park or wildlife refuge are damaged or destroyed. When loss of or major damage to any kind of property occurs, distress may arise from having to adjust to a 'new normal': a new school (peers may be separated, there may be new teachers and other caregivers that are unfamiliar to kids), temporary or permanent loss of employment, and an overall disruption in home and community life.
First responders, rescue & recovery worker distress may be triggered by prolonged separation from loved ones (containment of the wildifre may take weeks or even months), mental fatigue brought on from working long hours, disruption in home or work life brought on by deployment to the scene, vicarious trauma from direct exposure during the disaster, and difficulty readjusting to home or work life post-deployment. (First responders, rescue and recovery workers include fire fighters, police officers, EMTs and other fire/emergency/medical personnel; military service men and women; volunteers serving with disaster-relief organizations; disaster behavioral health crisis workers; etc.)
If you or someone you know shows any of these warning signs, whether you know they are in relation to a wildfire or if you aren't sure how they started ... Talk with us. You are not alone! Call our toll-free number 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 (Spanish-speakers can text Hablanos to 66746) for support and counseling. Calls and texts are answered by trained, caring counselors from crisis call centers located throughout the U.S.
The national '2-1-1' system offers up-to-the-minute disaster-specific information and resources. Visit http://www.211.org to locate a center serving a wildfire-impacted area. If you are looking for local information and resources but reside outside the area, be sure to call the alternate number listed vs. dialing '2-1-1' as your call would then be routed to your own local 2-1-1 center. Also try visiting the website of the 2-1-1 center first before making a call if your request is not urgent, as centers may be busy working to help those in immediate need.
Although the Disaster Distress Helpline provides 24/7/365 crisis counseling and support for all 50 states and territories, if you are looking to connect with a local crisis center, visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline [http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org] to look up the nearest call center serving the wildfire-impacted area or call 1-800-273-TALK .