On July 25th, multiple shootings took place in Langley, B.C. which resulted in two deaths and two people injured. While a motive is still unclear, it is believed the victims of the shootings were homeless. The devastating incident shocked the community, sending a wave of fear across the province.
Within hours, HEMBC's Disaster Psychosocial Service (DPS) team collaborated with Fraser Health and RCMP's Victim Services to attend a community outreach event at Nicomekl Elementary School the following day. Crisis specialists were available to provide support to community members who were impacted by the shooting.
"It's tragic, what's happened,'' says Margaretha Lundh, lead, wellness planning and disaster recovery for the Provincial Disaster Psychosocial Team.
"We sent two of our DPS volunteers, and two of the crisis intervention specialists from our mobile response team to provide psychosocial first aid. Our job is to look for those needing support, listen to their stories and immediate needs, and connect them with additional resources if required. We also want to ensure that people know their reactions are completely normal and give them information about what they can expect on their healing journey."
While only a handful of people attended, Margaretha explained that is a fairly typical response.
"A lot of the time, people don't even know they need help. Or they feel uncomfortable asking for help. The incident happened very recently as well, and it can take longer for certain feelings to show up. It's important to spread awareness about the amazing mental health support lines that are available to British Columbians 24/7 and also Wellness Together Canada which provides ongoing, online counselling for free."
The DPS team has been incredibly busy over the past few years, responding to disasters across B.C., including the recent flooding, wildfire and heat dome events. A PHSA staff member for over 11 years, Margaretha's current role was developed in response to the 2017 wildfires. At the moment, she is also managing the DPS response for her director who has taken leave to support psychosocial services in Ukraine.
"I've been doing emergency and disaster management for about 30 years," says Margaretha. I've worked in many positions and organizations, including the Canadian Coast Guard and the Vancouver International Airport Authority where I supported emergency events like SARS, anthrax threats and 9/11, and introduced a critical incident stress management program for staff. I was consulting when an opening became available at HEMBC and the rest is history. It's been a very rewarding career."
DPS is always in search of volunteers to join their volunteer network. If you are interested in providing psychosocial support in the form of psychological first aid to persons and communities impacted by emergencies and disasters, submit your volunteer application online. Volunteers must have a level of education, training and experience equivalent to a Bachelor's degree in a related field, plus a minimum of five (5) years' recent and related experience working with clients in the field of social work, mental health, counselling, crisis response, or similar profession.
For more information about DPS, please visit the DPS website.