Barrie woman organizes tornado peer support meetings

Meetings will not focus on trauma

Natalie Harris wants to talk about the damage done by the tornado that often isn’t visible to people.

The Barrie city councillor held the first tornado peer support meeting on Saturday to engage with those who need to talk through what they are feeling.

Harris, who has had personal battles with post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction, was visiting her son and dogs at her former husband’s house on July 15 when the tornado tore through a section of the southeast part of the city and ripped the roof off the residence.

She says the meetings will follow the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s Peer Support Guidelines and use a non-clinical format, meaning professional help will not be attending. Rather, Harris will facilitate discussion around recovery and solutions to concerns that have arisen after the tornado.

“What happens is that the style of these meetings is you don’t actually talk about trauma,” explains Harris. “That’s reserved for professional discussion.”

“That’s very difficult for people that have gone through something traumatic to get through their minds during the first couple of meetings because they instinctively want to talk about that.”

The Zoom-based meetings will be held once a month. Initially, they will be for individuals ages 15 and older.

Harris says there will be no cross-talk. She will provide uninterrupted time to anyone who wishes to share their positive community experiences and comments related to the topic that is provided. If a person doesn’t wish to talk, Harris says they are welcome to listen and learn.

“This forum will be a way to connect as a community in a positive way after the media has left the neighbourhood and we can find ourselves feeling alone again,” says Harris. “

Harris is the founder of Wings of Change Peer Support, created in 2017, which provides solution-based meetings for first responders.

She points out these meetings are organized as a community member and not as a city councillor.

To attend these meetings, people will have to reach out to Harris for the meeting ID and password.

Banner image: Home Natalie Harris was in when tornado struck (Barrie 360)