Beacon Health Options Offers Guidance to Members and Others Affected by California Fires

CYPRESS, Ca. – As the wildfires continue to burn in Northern California, Beacon Health Options, (Beacon), the nation’s premier behavioral health management company, wants to remind its members and others who are affected that a range of mental health services are available to you from your health plan.

“We wish to extend our deepest sympathies to those who have been affected by the recent wildfires,” said Briana Duffy, Beacon’s Senior Vice President, National Client Partnerships for the Western Region. “As behavioral health experts, we are well aware of the stress and anxiety these individuals are feeling and want to remind them to get the mental health care they need.”

If individuals or families need support, they should call the telephone number on the back of their health plan identification card. They can speak with a staff member – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – about obtaining resources and mental health services in their area. If they are displaced from their homes because of the wildfires, Beacon and other health plans will work to get them appropriate resources and services, wherever they are, based on their benefit design.

Lack of control produces anxiety

“In a natural disaster like this, we realize that we are not in control, which produces anxiety,” said Beacon Vice President and Medical Director Sanjay Vaswani. “When fear and anxiety dominate our emotions and the emotions of those around us, it is hard to regain balance and perspective. But it is necessary if we are to get on with our lives.”

There is no simple or straightforward way to fix things or to make things better right away. Disasters are like that. But there are things people can do to help themselves, their families and their communities. To ease anxiety, Beacon provides these tips to those individuals affected by the wildfires.

Tips to ease anxiety

  • Recognize that some things – perhaps many things – are beyond your control.
  • Get back to a normal routine as soon as possible and as much as possible.
  • Take care of your health. Stress can wreak havoc on emotions and on physical wellbeing by suppressing the immune system, raising blood pressure and causing other health issues.
  • Eat well and get as much rest as you can during and after the disaster.
  • Take time to talk with loved ones, friends, co-workers or clergy. Talk about your feelings with them.
  • Don’t obsess on what has already happened. Stay informed, but turn off the media and remove yourself emotionally from the painful reality of the disaster.
  • Get involved. Instead of worrying or shaking your fist at whatever happened, you can choose to be a part of the solution. Recognizing that you have choices is empowering in the aftermath of disaster.

People respond differently when faced with a disaster. Some initially turn their anxiety outward and launch into action by helping others and staying busy. They may fall to pieces after the initial crisis has subsided. Others remain in a state of shock and confusion, experiencing the entire gamut of emotions. They may have strong feelings right away, or they may not notice a change until much later, after the crisis is over. Prolonged worry can change how you interact with your friends and family. It may take time for you to feel better and for your life to return to normal.

“People should give themselves time to adjust,” said Dr. Vaswani. “However, if they experience mood swings, crying or getting angry, these can be signs of anxiety, depression or a stress disorder. They may need professional help if they feel that their emotions are becoming overwhelming.”