Creek Fire, COVID-19 leaving you depressed and hopeless? You may have 'disaster fatigue'

People dealing with severe anxiety and stress should try to take a step back from the information overload and focus on something positive.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2020
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FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- With so much negativity in the world right now brought on by significant events, many people are finding themselves often feeling hopeless and depressed.

There's a name for that - it's called 'disaster fatigue'.

And healthcare providers are seeing more and more of it.

"Disaster fatigue is a term used to really describe a collision of many disasters," said Fresno County Director of Behavioral Health Dawan Utecht.

When you combine a months-long global pandemic with an emergency like the Creek Fire or even social injustice events, health professionals say many people struggle with their ability to cope with all the negative news and it begins to strain their emotions and mental health.

"We're seeing increases in calls to our emotional support line. We're seeing more distress when people call our suicide prevention hotline," said Utecht.

According to Director of Behavioral Health for Fresno County Dawan Utecht, people dealing with severe anxiety and stress should try to take a step back from the information overload and focus on something positive. If not, it's possible for a person's disaster fatigue to snowball out of control.

"People have lost jobs, people have lost experiences in their life, where they couldn't go to a funeral or they couldn't have their wedding or they couldn't be present for the birth of a child because of COVID. Many personal impacts that we don't always think about," said Utecht.

There's also the stress over getting sick from the virus or the loss of social relationships during the pandemic.

"We're seeing it across the board, all age ranges and sectors of society in terms of ethnicity and demographics are all struggling to cope with the emotional feeling with what's happening right now."

Experts say talking about your feelings can go a long way to help reduce stress levels and anxiety.

"Beyond talking to a friend or a loved one or someone you can confide in, we want you to be okay with calling for professional help. Just like you would with a physical ailment you couldn't manage on your own.'

If you or someone you know is experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster, you can call 1-800-654-3937.

This toll-free number is confidential and comes in multiple languages and is available 24/7.