Vincent Agyapong

Director, Residents Quality Improvement Projects; Clinical professor, psychiatry

20 September 2018

Vincent Agyapong is tending to the emotional aftermath of Fort McMurray fire.

"I'm there once a week every month. I can see and feel the impact of the devastation on the mental health of residents. Many people lost their homes. And some of the people who didn't lose homes lost their jobs," Agyapong said. "For many others, there's just the impact of being a part of something so devastating. They can see whole areas of their community burnt down. It's not just a home movie, it was real. There's somuch post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and increased depression and anxiety."

The UAlberta psychiatrist is advocating to expand mental-health services in a city that needs them more than ever, and has recently published his research on elevated rates of depression in Fort McMurray post-fire in the International Journal of Mental Health and Addictions, garnering the attention of media (Edmonton Journal, National Post, Huffington Post, CTV, CBC).

"Fort McMurray lacked resources before the wildfire. Untreated mental health disorders do not improve over time....A significant proportion of the Fort McMurray population, about a third, will continue to experience mental health effects, which could be mitigated with interventions," said Agyapong. "The longer you leave these conditions untreated, the more damage will result to basic functioning."