The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Hundreds in Lac-Megantic have sought psychological help since rail disaster

  • Print

Hundreds of people in the Lac-Megantic region have sought psychological help for anxiety, flashbacks and a "terrible fear" of the area's train tracks following last year's rail catastrophe, says the local health authority.

And the patient list continues to grow as the first anniversary of the fatal derailment approaches, with about five new clients knocking on the Quebec agency's door each week.

The clinical co-ordinator for psychosocial assistance said her team treated 423 people in the Lac-Megantic area during the last 10 months in interventions that included 188 group and 2,035 individual therapy sessions. The town itself is home to fewer than 6,000 people.

"Many, many of them have been left with after-effects of the disaster," said Mychelle Beaule, adding that a handful of locals developed a "terrible fear" of the tracks that zigzag their way across the railroad town.

She described in an interview how therapy included gradually accompanying some people to the tracks and reassuring them that nothing would happen if they stepped over the rails.

Beaule painted a picture of a community still struggling to cope, even as it prepares to the mark the one-year anniversary this weekend of the July 6 crash.

A year ago Sunday, a runaway tanker train carrying volatile crude oil careened off the tracks in Lac-Megantic, setting off huge explosions that destroyed part of the downtown area and killed 47 people.

Beaule said her team has had success in treating many of the patients, the vast majority of whom were suffering from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, including flashbacks and physical distress upon hearing certain sounds.

But she expects the suffering for some to resurface during this weekend's commemorative activities. A number of locals have already said they will steer clear of the events, which will attract a lot of media attention.

"We have many people who are doing OK and who know that the July 6 commemoration will be another painful step," Beaule said.

"Many of them are in a hurry to get to July 7."

Beaule said the health authority currently follows about 120 people with individual therapy and around 40 in group sessions.

She said the locals who have sought help for the first time in recent months are those who thought they could manage their symptoms without professional assistance.

"They arrive more fragile, more worn out because they tried to sort things out on their own and maybe it took more of their energy than they thought," she said.

Patients seen during the last year have included children affected by the disaster, several whom lost one or both parents.

Other kids, Beaule said, developed problems after witnessing the explosions or even by hearing adults discuss the destruction.

Last winter, the grief was so prevalent in town that group sessions were organized to help massage therapists, estheticians and hairdressers learn how to talk to clients suffering in the disaster's aftermath. The discussions were also aimed at helping them protect themselves from developing symptoms of their own as a result.

Beaule said similar group sessions will be held this month for local restaurant servers, bar staffers and taxi drivers to help them learn how to field probing questions by curious tourists.

"It's going better for many, (but) there's still more road to cover," Beaule said of Lac-Megantic's recovery.

"It will be a big weekend (of commemorative events), but I think that afterwards maybe we will finally get to start the summer that we didn't have last year."

Follow @AndyBlatchford on Twitter

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Keri Latimer looks for beauty in the dark and the spaces between the notes

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A monarch butterfly looks for nectar in Mexican sunflowers at Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park Monday afternoon-Monarch butterflys start their annual migration usually in late August with the first sign of frost- Standup photo– August 22, 2011   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A monarch butterfly looks for nectar in Mexican sunflowers at Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park Monday afternoon-Monarch butterflys start their annual migration usually in late August with the first sign of frost- Standup photo– August 22, 2011   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you like Gord Steeves’ idea to sell four city-owned golf courses to fund road renewal?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google