Concerns grow over mental health impact of OEV explosion
Published Monday, August 19, 2019 3:02PM EDT
The aftermath of the OEV explosion doesn’t just have visible physical impacts, but mental health implications too.
The explosion and fire on Wednesday night that caused significant destruction left residents and emergency personnel in the middle of what looked like a war zone.
“Together we had to deal with a tragic event that happened very quickly that has hurt some of our members. We still have one member in hospital that’s hard for us to take and takes a toll on us mentally,” says Acting London Deputy Fire Chief Jack Burt.
Burt says the firefighter still in hospital is in serious condition but recovering, he says everyone on the force knows it could’ve been much worse for many.
“It’s been very stressful for us over here at the fire department and we have a lot of healing to do over the next few weeks.”
Burt says there is a mental toll tragedies like the explosion in London's Old East Village can take not just on fire fighters but all emergency personnel.
Several police officers were also sent to hospital following explosion. Insp. Lynn Sutherland with London police says mental health services are in place for officers and staff.
“We engage in peer-to-peer support so the very next day we had peer officers assist our members and help them articulate and vent and express their feelings, emotions and concerns after the event.”
Staff at the Canadian Mental Health Association’s (CMHA) crisis centre say it’s very important for anyone who experienced this tragic event to keep an eye on how they are feeling in the coming days and weeks.
"Very common reactions in the initial aftermath would be shock, disbelief and denial - just the comprehension of this type of event happening at all,” says Lynda Cowie from the CMHA.
Cowie says emergency personnel in particular are very vulnerable to long-lasting mental health implications.
“Emergency responders they see stuff like this on a more frequent basis, so they are definitely more exposed to opportunities of vicarious trauma or secondary trauma.”
Burt says that’s why it’s important for him to speak out and to make sure his members know that it’s okay to reach out for help
“It’s not like a bruise, but it’s there and has a the same impact as a physical injury and it can be hard for people to come to realize that, but I’m here to tell you it’s okay not to be okay and I’m still not okay.”
Mental health services can be accessed at the CMHA Middlesex online or in person at the CMHA Mental Health & Addictions Crisis Centre at 648 Huron Street in London, Ont., which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
You can also call the 24-hour 'Reach Out' hotline at 519-433-2023 or 1-866-933-2023.