Mental health supports offered to Okanagan residents in wake of B.C. wildfires – Okanagan


Life is hard enough. Add on a traumatic event like the wildfires that have torn through the Central Okanagan and that can take a real toll on our mental health.

There’s been an outpouring of support from community members, small business owners and entrepreneurs to support people who have been affected by the McDougall Creek wildfire as well as the Grouse Complex wildfire.

Registered clinical counsellor and psychotherapist Allie Huggins is one of those people using their unique skills to help.

“The night it happened [Aug. 17] there was such an energy of panic, people were coming out of their homes trying to communicate and soothe each other,” said Huggins.

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“I saw so many workers come out, and show up at their job at the gas station even though it was chaos and there were lines up the streets, and hold it together, firefighters, RCMP officers, people coming together to help.”

Many people have returned home as evacuation orders and alerts are lifting in Central Okanagan, however, there are people still waiting are firefighters continue to fight the McDougall Creek wildfire.

To jumpstart the healing process, while breaking down financial barriers Huggins and her team are offering free group counselling sessions.

“When there’s a trauma our fight or flight system activates, we get adrenaline and cortisol hormones, which is a stress hormone which increases our heart rates. It’s a stress hormone and we need that when there’s a threat. You need to be like, OK, there’s a fire and we need to run but sometimes if there isn’t enough follow-up care we can get stuck,” said Huggins.

“There are all kinds of health consequences when we don’t process trauma effectively.”

Huggins says that group therapy sessions allow people to not only access the support of a professional but also to find support in each other.

“We are social creatures, we are tribal historically and I think that coming together in person, getting off our phones, getting out of the house does have physiological benefits,” said Huggins.

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“In group therapy, people can support each other. There is an emotional component to that — we want our stories to be heard, seen and validated in a safe space.”

The free group counselling sessions will be held Sept. 3, Oct. 8 and Nov. 12  at Huggin’s office on St. Paul St. in Kelowna. All that’s asked is if you plan on attending to RSVP on their website first:

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