Mind Springs Health Offering Mental Health Support During Wildfire Season
With numerous wildfires happening throughout the state, many Coloradoans are feeling emotional distress – especially in a time when anxiety and depression are already heightened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to help alleviate some of the stress residents in Western Colorado are feeling, Mind Springs Health is encouraging anyone who needs someone to talk about how they’re feeling call their free, mental health support line at 1.877.519.7505, which is manned 24 hours per day, 7 days a week.
“There are fires currently burning in many of the communities we serve, including the Grizzly Creek fire outside of Glenwood Springs and the Pine Gulch fire outside of Grand Junction,” said Michelle Hoy, executive vice president at Mind Springs Health. “Wildfires are not only physically devastating to public and private lands, but they can also increase anxiety and feelings of sadness and vulnerability. These are normal feelings to have during and after a natural disaster and it can be incredibly helpful to talk about these emotions with a professional.”
The Mind Springs Health mental health line was originally launched as a free community service in March during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. With a rampant wildfire season and school starting in the next few weeks, the organization expects there will be an increased demand for mental health services.
“For many, the pandemic has impacted them emotionally, but they’ve felt okay enough to not seek out services,” said Dr. William Elsass, chief medical officer for Mind Springs Health. “However, with the added stressors of wildfires, schools re-opening, and continued concerns about the pandemic and current financial crisis, many people in our communities are simply reaching the point they don’t feel they can navigate their stress and anxiety on their own, and we want to be sure that everyone who needs help, has quick, easy access to support – whether that support is a one-time conversation or pathway to ongoing help.”
Parents are also looking for resources to help their children who are experiencing anxiety and fear surrounding the wildfires. For some children, breathing in smokey air and seeing firefighting aircraft are a first-time experience, while others are revisiting past trauma from previous fires. Children who physically witnessed the flames of the Lake Christine fire in 2018, for example, may be experiencing a depth of emotions while the Grizzly Creek fire burns.
“Parents should spend time talking with their child and let them know that it is okay to ask questions and express their feelings,” said Dr. Elsass. “Maintaining routines and providing structure is important during crisis situations. Parents can also be strong role models by staying resilient and positive, and not spending too much time on social media or watching news about the fire in front of kids.”
Dr. Elsass also encourages parents to take of themselves during times of stress by getting appropriate exercise and eating and sleeping well. Additional resources and tips can be found on the Mind Springs Health website at https://www.mindspringshealth.org/majorevents/#wildfire
Mind Springs Health’s free, mental health support line is for anyone who simply needs to talk or is looking for additional behavioral health resources. Anyone experiencing a mental health crisis should call the crisis line at 1.844.493.TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255.
Mind Springs Health is the Western Slope’s largest provider of counseling and therapy for mental wellness and assists individuals and families dealing with and recovering from substance abuse and addiction. Covering a 23,000-square mile area in Eagle, Garfield, Grand, Jackson, Mesa, Moffat, Pitkin, Rio Blanco, Routt and Summit counties, Mind Springs Health offers a continuum of mental health care with crisis response services, 12 offices for outpatient treatment, and West Springs Hospital, the only psychiatric hospital between Denver and Salt Lake City.