Experts warn of mental health woes as wildfires ravage South

ATLANTA (AP) – Mental health experts say that escaping a fire-filled forest, as thousands did Nov. 28 in the Great Smoky Mountains, can be more traumatic than disasters such as hurricanes, floods or earthquakes.

One reason: Flames that scorched neighborhoods in the Gatlinburg, Tennessee area spread so rapidly that people had no time to brace for it.

Experts say that survivors of the wildfires now face many dangers, including suicide, post-traumatic stress and substance abuse.

Valerie Cole of the American Red Cross, who helped victims of a devastating wildfire in Canada, says that depression, anxiety and other problems might not show up for some people until months after the disaster.

Cole says the images of flames draped across homes could haunt residents of the Gatlinburg area for a very long time.

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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