Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Hundreds in Lac-Megantic Have Sought Psychological Help since Rail Disaster

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Hundreds in Lac-Megantic Have Sought Psychological Help since Rail Disaster

Article excerpt

Hundreds in Lac-Megantic sought psych help

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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. …

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