Medford, Ore — The Almeda fire may be contained but the mental trauma for survivors especially children continues.
“I think a lot of our students and families are still in shock,” said Michelle House.
The destruction of the Almeda Fire fresh in their minds, Phoenix-Talent School District staff are preparing for the school year, and the emotional weight it carries.
“We’re starting to see some of the typical symptoms that we would notice as a result of a traumatic event in elementary through high school students,” said House.
House is a counselor at Phoenix High School, in a School District where an estimated 50% of student families lost their homes.
“Tuesday afternoon and evening was incredibly difficult for everyone I’ve been in contact with for me personally” she said.
House says identifying trauma symptoms can be difficult.
“Changes in mood, irritability, often see increase in symptoms of anxiety or depression, changes in eating or sleeping habits, especially in younger kids,” said House.
To address the need the district mobilized it’s mental health staff at evacuation and relief centers throughout the county.
“Especially now during this time of crisis and this increase in trauma we’re seeing in our students, we’re really going to focus on addressing those social emotional needs.”
House says parents and guardians also have a role to play.
“Being able to express those very real and natural human emotions can normalize it for our kids, show them it’s okay to not be okay especially in difficult times like these.”
Phoenix-Talent School District is looking to begin online classes later this month.
The Phoenix-Talent School District relief center is located at Orchard Hill Elementary in Medford.