Coping study seeks to help Waldo Canyon Fire victims

Aug. 27, 2012

Samantha Morley
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Most of us have experienced the effects of some form of tragedy. These kinds of events pile considerable amounts of stress and anxiety on all of the parties involved. If the negativity is not handled properly, those affected could have difficulty moving on with their lives.

Lori James, associate professor in the Department of Psychology, has assisted with the development of an online program that provides self-help techniques.

While it originally focused on dealing with hurricanes and wildfires in Texas, it is now more focused on local issues, such as the Waldo Canyon Fire.

“The Waldo Canyon Fire provides an opportunity to gain new information about helping people increase their skills in coping with unhealthy reactions to a disaster. This might help the next community recover more quickly from a natural disaster, but also might help members of our home community cope,” explained James.

The study, funded by National Institute of Health, is to be conducted over a period of 60 days and includes three surveys.

To participate, those affected by the fire are can locate the first survey online. Questions focus on how the participant was impacted by the fire. Participants may leave some answers blank, but the more responses are given, the more useful the information is.

Depending on the answers provided, some respondents will have access to resources which will help them work through their difficulties right away.

Others will be provided resources and another survey 30 days later. For each survey completed, participants will be compensated $25. Participation is completely voluntary.

James and others involved in the project hope to publish their results in an established academic journal. “There are a handful of good journals in trauma,” James said.

Straightforward and clear results will have higher potential to be accepted for publication in a more prominent journal. The study is projected to be published in the next one to two years.

James herself has personal experience regarding the Waldo Canyon Fire and can sympathize with the anxiety and tension residents of Colorado Springs faced. Her home, located in the Mountain Shadows area, is only a short distance from burned houses.

Yet, even though she can identify with many of the evacuees and victims, she ensures that no personal information is associated with the online survey responses.

When asked if she had any advice for people still processing stress from the Waldo Canyon Fire, James responded, “If people feel like they’re seriously in trouble, they need to seek help. There’s no weakness in it; there’s no craziness in it. It’s just that sometimes you need more help than you think.”


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