Quebec floods: Psychological impact and stress relief

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WATCH: The psychological effects and stress on those displaced by the floods in Quebec can be overwhelming, according to one psychologist. As Global’s Anne Leclair found out, Om West yoga studio in Pointe-Claire is offering free classes to those who need a little zen – May 9, 2017

Studies have shown that depression and anxiety are more common among those who have suffered flood trauma. Even those indirectly affected are five times more likely to show signs of psychological distress.

In an effort to try and curb those statistics, several West Island psychologists and mental health clinics have started an open-door policy, some even offering free counseling.

“Isolation is probably one of the most damaging things we can experience under a period of stress,” psychologist Patricia Levell said. “To have a place to come and debrief, be warm and taken care of a bit – really important.”

It’s the urge to be with others that pushed one Roxboro resident to leave his home for a yoga class on Tuesday.

“It’s difficult,” 86 year old John Isaac said. “The whole condo is surrounded by police cars and sirens and flooded water.”

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READ MORE: Quebec floods: Financial assistance for flooding victims

To clear his mind and escape the stress involved in watching the flood water, Isaac decided to take part in a reduced-mobility yoga class.

“It makes me feel physically good and it makes me feel more relaxed,” Isaac said. “I just enjoy it!”

The owners of Om West yoga studio in Pointe-Claire, have decided to spread the good vibes by offering one month of free unlimited yoga to all those affected by the floods.

“A few years ago we suffered from water damage in our own home and we know how stressful it can be,” co-owner Antoine Tinawi said. “We wanted to do something for the community to help people cope with the stress.

Yoga is known to help heal the mind body and soul and it made a world of difference when the owners had to face their own flooded home.

“Yoga helped a lot in knowing how to respond to a situation, how to actually be calm and be like, ‘what do I do now?’ without panicking,” Tinawi’s wife and business partner, Pamela Gooria, said.

WATCH: Helping out during the Quebec floods

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Studies have shown that psychological disorders are much more likely to hit those whose homes have been flooded.

“It’s very very terrible and I can understand the anxiety that people feel right now,” Premier Philippe Couillard said. “I would feel the same. Even some anger, if it was my home being affected the way I’ve seen certain homes being affected.”

The Quebec government is offering psycho-social support for flooding victims. “We have teams from the ministry of health and social services on the ground,” Couillard said on Tuesday. “I also think, and most people agree, that there will be more in the coming days.”

READ MORE: London reservists volunteering to provide support for flood relief in Quebec

Several West Island psychologists and mental health clinics have opened their doors free of charge to people affected by the floods including the Yellow Umbrella Wellness Centre in Beaconsfield.

What makes this flooding episode especially stressful according to experts is its duration.

“We’re dealing with a situation that’s been going on for an extended period of time which makes it that much harder. We know that people respond better to a short-term crisis than a long-term crisis,” psychologist Patricia Levell said.

One way to avoid the harmful effects of stress is to stay active and surrounded with support. For those who are watching from the sidelines, helping others can be the perfect remedy according to psychologists.

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“When we can either go and help sandbagging, donate food, donate time whatever we can do to make an active difference, it alleviates our stress we feel like there’s something I can do,” Levell said.


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