Joshua Weil, MD, discusses the psychological impact of living through wildfires in Time story

With 18 million acres of destruction and 24 lives lost to date, the Australia wildfires have taken a significant physical and psychological toll on that country and its inhabitants. As the effects of these fires grows, many Californians can sympathize with the mental trauma wildfires leave behind.

In a recent story published in Time, Joshua Weil, MD, an emergency medicine physician for The Permanente Medical Group, shared his personal experience with Northern California’s wildfires.

Dr. Weil lost his home to the 2017 Tubbs Fire that blazed through Santa Rosa and other parts of Northern California, and prompted the evacuation of the Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa Medical Center. According to Dr. Weil, the experience was emotionally devastating.

“Everything that anchored my life was gone. I felt like I was detached,” says Dr. Weil. “I definitely felt, particularly in the first 6 to 9 months after the fires, that I was riskier in my behavior, because I think I felt less attached to things.”

In October 2019, Dr. Weil once again found himself in danger during the most recent fire evacuations in his area. Although his home was in the evacuation zone, it was ultimately spared.

The second incident made Dr. Weil more acutely aware of the anxiety that comes with living in an area that is prone to disasters and the impacts of climate change.

“Every October, do we simply not make plans because they may be disrupted?” he says. “It’s our new reality.”

It’s a reality that many Australians will have to deal with in the coming months as they work to recover and rebuild.

For the full story, go to the Time website.