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PECKFORD – An event remembered.

Contributor Larry Peckford has had a varied career in Newfoundland as a public servant and community volunteer. He keeps a seasonal residence in the Codroy Valley. Larry can be reached at

Although I do not live in Port aux Basques, I get the feeling things are slowly coming together for those who were affected by Hurricane Fiona. I understand some building lots are immediately available in Port aux Basques while others are in the planning stages and will come on stream later this year. Of course for some, building again as a homeowner may not be an option they choose. Other forms of accommodation such as renting may be a more comfortable arrangement. The action taken by the municipality in accelerating the availability of housing lots is to be commended. Likewise, the emergency efforts by government and community organizations are seen to be very worthwhile. While these are concrete steps for recovery, the intangible effects of seeing sections of your community literally torn apart will remain with many residents for a long time. In the early 1950’s our family lived on the south coast of Newfoundland. The memories of the tidal wave (tsunami) that occurred in 1929 lingered fresh in the minds of many people I knew. That event washed away many homes and caused much destruction. As a young child I could hardly fathom how such an occurrence was something that would so long be remembered. This will no less be true for residents of the southwest coast who experienced the devastation of Hurricane Fiona. After every weather occurrence there is always the usual “taking stock” of how such events occurred. A changing climate is a concern and there is no doubt our weather is challenging in ways not before experienced. These weather events take their toll on the physical infrastructure, but they can also take a toll on a person’s mental health. That aspect which affects individuals and communities should not be underappreciated. I noted a piece in this paper recently that quoted the Western Health’s Manager of the Southwest Coast Mental Health and Addiction Services. In what was a very comprehensive discussion with the Weekly reporter, the Manager outlined that organization’s response to assist people who may have been mentally affected by the hurricane’s experience. The information shared demonstrated the various ways by which the Health unit was equipped to help people with mental health challenges. The services are broad and range from individual counselling to support with government processes and advocacy for residents. As someone who has dealt with communities in crisis because of industry closure, responding to a crisis that involves a loss of life and destruction of homes and neighbourhoods, these circumstances bring the tragedy and its impacts to another level. People who feel overwhelmed because of their experience from the hurricane should not be reluctant to seek out the help that is offered. Unfortunately, there can some times be stigma associated with seeking help because of trauma or feelings of helplessness associated with a tragic set of circumstances. The good news is that today we are finding a more-ready acceptance that mental health is not unlike, in many respects, our physical health. Once afflicted, its impacts can be debilitating and reduces an individual’s overall capacity to function normally. The Manager in the Weekly story was excellent in her description of how these things can happen and how their services can help. So the moral of this story is that if you feel dragged down and not functioning at your usual level, seek help.

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