Fitting in self-care and reaching out to support network key to recovering from traumatic events like a tornado

Special mental wellness event being held for victims of last week's tornado in Barrie

Recovery efforts continue in south Barrie following a devastating EF-2 tornado that struck last Thursday. While walls can be rebuilt and wounds will heal, what about the unseen scars left by such a traumatic event?

“When we hear of natural disasters, it could be earthquakes or tornadoes or tsunami or severe storms, we do know they represent a significant risk factor to mental health,” Dr. Katy Kamkar, Clinical Psychologist at the Centre of Addiction and Mental Health told Barrie 360. “The psychological distress often associated with natural disasters is typically exacerbated by those stressors and losses that occur in the aftermath of the trauma.”

“Those can create a range of emotions from shock and fear, to anxiety, to a sense of loss and also depressed mood,” she added.

Dr. Kamkar says, in times like these, it is important to lean on any supports you have in your life. “At this stage, building and strengthening resources and supports, engaging in self-care as much as possible, fitting in self-care and really reaching out,” she said. “Any sense of stability and security can become very helpful.”

While the impacts of such an event can be hard for a person’s mental wellbeing, Kamkar points out there could be silver linings here. “We do know that disasters have also been found to resolve in some positive experiences, including personal growth, strengthen relationships, and learning.”

“So, it is very important, at this stage, to seek support, seek help, to maximize our resources and support our strengths and needs, to really boost our resiliency during this difficult time.”

Reaching out to your support network is easier said than done in a pandemic, however, when limiting personal contact is the name of the game. Dr. Kamkar points out a phone call can do the trick. “When we need sympathy when we need empathy, having also people to talk to can also be very helpful.”

A special event is being held for victims of last week’s tornado. Healing After Trauma: Regaining Your Mental Health After a Disaster promises to bring more helpful information to help cope during this challenging time. Staff and councillors from New Path Youth & Family Service, Catholic Family Services, and Waypoint Centre For Mental Health will be available during the event.

It will be held Thursday, July 22 from 5 to 7 p.m. outside St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic School at 130 Prince William Way. This event is being supported by the City of Barrie, the Simcoe County District School Board, and the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board.

Until then, help is available through the Canadian Mental Health Association, Simcoe County website at cmhastarttalking.ca and through Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 or kidshelpphone.ca.