Californians become head cases after wine country fire

Screenshot 2017-12-18 at 08.02.07 You knew this was coming.

They were once normal things: snarled traffic. Heavy winds. Large crowds.

Now, they’re enough to bring Samantha Eggert back to October, when the most destructive wildfire in state history consumed her home in Santa Rosa’s Coffey Park neighborhood — and almost her and her husband with it.

Eggert, 48, knows she has company, that thousands of fire victims are struggling to rebuild their lives. But she feels alone.

“It really messes with your mind,” she said. “We were in a situation where we honestly didn’t know what was going on, even though there was all this smoke. I still have this feeling of not being able to escape, even after all this time.”

Sonoma County has plunged into a period that trauma psychologists call disillusionment. At the peak of clinicians’ “phases of disaster” chart — after the immediate shock and the gratitude for acts of heroism — is the honeymoon phase of deep community cohesion.

Then the line plunges, a jagged downward slope that can last up to one year after a disaster.

The number of people seeking mental health resources in Sonoma County has nearly doubled since the historic firestorm hit Wine Country starting the night of Oct. 8, officials said. In the first month, 125 behavioral health workers provided about 13,000 hours of counseling to victims. On average, 40 workers remain in the field daily.

San Francisco Chronicle


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