Mental health support available for those impacted by Northern California wildfires

As fires in Northern California — including the Pawnee Fire raging in Lake County — continue to force residents out of their homes, a number of national and local crisis resources are available for traumatized individuals experiencing feelings of anxiety, distress or overwhelming sadness.

In Lake County, the number for the 24-hour crisis line is (800) 900-2075. In Shasta County, the number for the local, 24-hour mental health crisis service line is 530-225-5252. In Tehama County, the phone number for the 24/7 Community Crisis Response Unit is 530-527-5637 or 800-240-3208.

On a national level, individuals can text 741741 to text with a trained counselor with the Crisis Text Line.

The Disaster Distress Helpline, which is available for free to all individuals in the U.S. or its territories, is staffed 24/7 with licensed crisis counselors. These services are accessed by either calling 1-800-985-5990 or texting "TalkWithUs" to the number 66746.

"Warning signs that someone is in distress include feeling unprepared or isolated," said Brian Dominguez, the press officer for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which offers the helpline.

“Fires can start very quickly and very fast,” he said. “Because of how abrupt it is, it can be very traumatic. (...) People may feel vulnerable. Children and teens might be worried it will happen again.”

Dominguez said it is important to realize that there is an emotional component to every traumatic situation, in addition to the physical toll of a situation. He said the service promotes healthy coping and is able to assist individuals before, during and after a traumatic event, such as a wildfire.

“Feelings such as overwhelming anxiety, constant worrying, trouble sleeping, and other depression-like symptoms are common responses before, during, and after wildfires,” the SAMHSA website states.

For those currently managing their distress, the American Psychological Association recommends breaks from watching the news if possible and trying to find productive ways to stay occupied. The American Psychological Association's phone number is 1-800-964-2000.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages individuals who have experienced a wildfire to be mindful of their emotional well-being.

Those who have been injured or wounded should call 911. Additional information for preventing injuries can be accessed by calling 1-800-CDC-INFO.

“It’s important for people to get the help that they need,” Dominguez said. “Emotional distress and emotional support is needed whenever people experience a natural disaster.

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