SonomaCountyRecovers: Official recovery information for Sonoma County fires

Mental Health & Wellness

When we experience a disaster, people react with increased anxiety, worry and anger. With community and family support, most of us bounce back.  Some of us, however, may need extra assistance to cope with unfolding events and uncertainties. Everyone, even the people that others look up to for guidance and assistance, is entitled to their feelings and deserves support throughout the recovery process.

If you or someone in your care needs additional assistance recovering emotionally from the fires, please reach out to:

American Red Cross 24/7 Disaster Distress Helpline: (800) 985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs” to 66746


Click here to view the Sonoma County Mental Health Resource Guide

If you are in need of counseling, here is a list of licensed therapists offering 3-5 hours of free service to fire victims.

Emotional Responses

When we experience a disaster or other stressful life event, we can have a variety of reactions, all of which can be common responses to difficult situations.

These reactions can include:

  • Feeling physically and mentally drained
  • Having difficulty making decisions or staying focused on topics
  • Becoming easily frustrated on a more frequent basis
  • Arguing more with family and friends
  • Feeling tired, sad, numb, lonely or worried
  • Experiencing changes in appetite or sleep patterns

Most of these reactions are temporary and will go away over time. Try to accept whatever reactions you may have. Look for ways to take one step at a time and focus on taking care of your disaster-related needs and those of your family.

Keep a particularly close eye on the children in your family. When disaster strikes, a child's view of the world as a safe and predictable place is temporarily lost. Children of different ages react in different ways to trauma, but how parents and other adults react following any traumatic event can help children recover more quickly and more completely.

Struggling in the aftermath of the fires? Free counseling is available

Counselors are available to provide care for grief, depression, anxiety and trauma at no cost to those affected by the October 2017 wildfires. For an appointment, call the Lomi Psychotherapy Clinic at 707-579-0465 ext 227. For more information, use this link.

UC Davis researching health impacts of fires, seeks participants

Researchers from the Environmental Health Sciences Center at UC Davis are working with Northern California communities to study the impact smoke and burned debris have had on survivors of the catastrophic fires that swept through Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, Lake and other counties in October 2017. These fires were unique because they burned manmade structures, which scientists believe could impact the health of people differently than “natural” wildfires that burn trees, grass, and other plants. “We know what [natural] wildfire smoke is composed of, but we have no idea what will be in this. We expect it to be very different,” says Keith Bein, a scientist at the UC Davis Air Quality Research Center.

For more information or to get involved, use this link.

Recovery Takes Time

Getting ourselves and our lives back in a routine that is comfortable for us takes time.

  • Take care of your safety. Find a safe place to stay and make sure your physical health needs and those of your family are addressed. Seek medical attention if necessary.
  • Limit your exposure to the sights and sounds of disaster, especially on television, the radio and in the newspapers.
  • Eat healthy. During times of stress, it is important that you maintain a balanced diet and drink plenty of water.
  • Get some rest. With so much to do, it may be difficult to have enough time to rest or get adequate sleep. Giving your body and mind a break can boost your ability to cope with the stress you may be experiencing.
  • Stay connected with family and friends. Giving and getting support is one of the most important things you can do. Try to do something as a family that you have all enjoyed in the past.
  • Be patient with yourself and with those around you. Recognize that everyone is stressed and may need some time to put their feelings and thoughts in order. That includes you!
  • Set priorities. Tackle tasks in small steps.
  • Gather information about assistance and resources that will help you and your family members meet your disaster-related needs.
  • Stay positive. Remind yourself of how you’ve successfully gotten through difficult times in the past. Reach out when you need support, and help others when they need it.

When the Challenges Are Ongoing

Many people have experience coping with stressful life events and typically feel better after a few days. Others find that their stress does not go away as quickly as they would like and it influences their relationships with their family, friends and others.

If you find yourself or a loved one experiencing some of the feelings and reactions listed below for two weeks or longer, this may be a sign that you need to reach out for additional assistance.

  • Crying spells or bursts of anger
  • Difficulty eating
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Losing interest in things
  • Increased physical symptoms sucha as headaches or stomachaches
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling guilty, helpless or hopeless
  • Avoiding family and friends

Free drop-in Santa Rosa support group for fire survivors

This is a new group for those who have experienced losses in the recent wildfires. Come and connect with others who are coping with the similar challenges, celebrate your successes, discover ways to problem-solve your challenges, and learn about resources.

Dates: Wednesdays, January 31 – March 21, 2:30 – 4 PM in Santa Rosa. For more information, contact Yonat Piva, MFT; or 707-303-1521.

American Red Cross Resources and Guides

Taking Care of Your Emotional Health

Helping Children Cope with Disaster

Guides are available in other languages on the American Red Cross website.

Here are suggestions:

Message, text or email them your love and concern. Short and sweet: “I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m so glad you are alive.” “I love you” is nice too.

Listen. Everyone’s experience of this tragedy is be different. It helps when someone simply listens to how it is for her or him. Don’t offer advice or stories about others’ loss: just listen.

Send a gift card or offer financial help: Your friends are going to be spending money for to meet so many needs. Grocery stores and restaurants cards are especially useful, since insurance claims take time to process, even in the best of times.

Make a meal or shop for groceries. Food is comforting and vital to help tired people. Your friends may not want company, but a meal may be welcome. Your contribution helps even if your friends are being staying with loved ones.

Ask to run errands or drive them. Deliver right to their door. If they want to do their own shopping, having you chauffeur can take some pressure off.

Ask children what they need. Is there a game or toy a child is missing because of the fire? Deliver that to the family. Helping the children helps the family.

Be there for the months ahead. Rebuilding after this disaster is going to take time. It’s important to be there for your friends now and in the future. All the kindnesses and caring actions above will help for a long time to come.

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