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Anniversary of natural disaster brings a flood of emotions
Ryan White, CTV Calgary
Published Wednesday, June 18, 2014 3:24PM MDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 18, 2014 6:57PM MDT
As the one year anniversary of southern Alberta’s historic flooding approaches, mental health experts say flood victims may experience feelings of anxiety and depression.
Sue Arlidge, an Exshaw resident, is one of many Albertans who suffered great loss during the flooding of June 2013. Arlidge says the process of rebuilding her home, and her life, has been a trying experience.
“It’s brutal,” explains Arlidge. “I’m on the edge of tears all the time.”
“It’s really demoralizing.”
Arlidge is not the only flood victim to feel helpless as flood watches and high streamflow advisories return to southern Alberta.
Ongoing research has determined the mental health impact of flooding lasts long after the waters subside. Feelings of anxiety, stress and depression are amplified in flood victims, and societal issues, such as family violence, may increase.
Andrea Silverstone of Peer Support Services for Abused Women says the flood presents financial, emotional and physical challenges, which are heightened by the loss of sentimental items and the current housing crisis in Calgary.
“We have seen more clients than we have ever seen before in the low to middle income category,” explains Silverstone. “Those are women who before would have been able to make some plans of their own with some external support to save enough money to be able to leave an abusive situation.”
In High River, representatives from Family & Community Support Service, Alberta Health Services, the Red Cross, and town officials are going door-to-door to ensure residents are receiving the financial and emotional help they need in order to recover from the flood.
Doug Munn, Manager of Human Impact Services for the Town of High River, says the door knocking campaign ensures the voices of flood victims are being heard.
“To touch base with people,” said Munn. “To find out how they are doing, to have a conversation with them and to gather information to find out if there are more services that are needed.”
High River residents have been receptive to the door-to-door conversations. Officials say they underestimated the length of time each homeowner would need to express their concerns and the campaign will take longer to ensure they reach all townspeople.
The Town of High River has created a counselling centre for people in need.
“What we are finding is that a lot of people are saying ‘I thought I was doing really well, but I'm realizing I wasn't doing as well as I thought’,” explains Thalia Anderen, a representative of the centre.
Glyniss Wagstaff, a resident of High River, says her neighbours are all trying their best and contributing to the rebuilding cause, but the effort is taking its toll.
“It is a slow healing,” said Glyniss. “I think you have to give it up and give it over, let go of your anger, and you might find peace somewhere.”
Since the 2013 flooding, Alberta Health Services has spent $25 million on mental health support related to the floods. AHS says it will commit additional funds for long term mental health services.
With files from CTV's Karen Owen