PTSD from California’s Fires


Hana Beaty

Graphic made by Hana Beaty

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a very real and common occurrence that happens when a person goes through something extremely traumatic, such as a wildfire burning down their house, forcing them to evacuate. With California once again entering a devastating fire season, many may begin to experience symptoms of PTSD, even if they never have before.

According to the Mayo Clinic, PTSD is triggered when a person experiences or witnesses a horrifying event, which comes back to haunt them via nightmares, anxiety or uncontrollable thoughts. Most of the time these symptoms are temporary, lasting a few weeks to months, yet on occasion can develop into a lifelong issue where medical help may be required.

“When I first woke up I was confused, it didn’t feel like daylight,” said Novato resident Sharon Jackson. “When I got up and saw the sky, it was very frightening, it was scary and depressing, and I didnt know what was going to happen, especially by myself.”

Jackson is, of course, referring to the most recent fires plaguing the West Coast, yet went on to add that they reminded her of when the Tubbs Fire impacted the North Bay and its neighboring communities.

I too have had these feelings of dread and anxiety from watching the sky turn dark with smoke and ash. One thing I personally do in order to feel better is to stay informed of the situation and understand that it is being taken care of the best of our firefighters’ ability. We have firefighters from all over the nation courageously fighting the flames for us, and we can only hope and pray that it will come to a swift end.

Yet, what does one do if these symptoms become an issue? The Mayo Clinic states that seeking medical help from a trained professional is the only option if the situation is extreme, yet for minor symptoms simply leaving the area that triggers you or finding something else to occupy your thoughts may be helpful.

With fire season getting worse every year, it is difficult for any of us to not experience some form of PTSD. It is important to understand and deal with one’s mental health and most importantly, stay safe during these tumultuous times.
Lewis can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JackAttack722