WATCH ABOVE: Ottawa police say investigation underway into bus crash that killed three, make appeal for witnesses
An organization that provides emotional support to Ottawa residents says it’s seen an increase in calls in the aftermath of a bus crash that claimed three lives on Friday.
A spokesperson for the Distress Centre for Ottawa and Region said the tragedy has prompted fear and anxiety in a small and tight-knit city.
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“It’s almost guaranteed that you know somebody who takes that route on a normal basis,” said Leslie Scott. “So there was a lot of fear and panic for friends and loved ones.”
As the afternoon rush was getting underway on Friday, a double-decker bus struck a shelter at Westboro station west of downtown Ottawa. In addition to the three people who lost their lives, 23 were injured, some critically.
So far, police have not speculated on the cause of the collision, though they have promised a thorough investigation into what happened.
Scott said while the centre is busy now, it will continue to see calls as the investigation unfolds and even months down the road as people grapple with post-traumatic stress.
For some, the crash has brought back memories of another tragedy, she said. In 2013, a double-decker OC Transpo bus collided with a Via Rail train in a collision that claimed six lives.
In 2013, 6 were killed when an Ottawa double-decker bus hit a train. Distraction was one cause
She said Friday’s events are “very triggering for a lot of people who were already dealing with emotions from that, people that were eyewitnesses or on the bus or lost somebody on that bus.”
The distress centre takes calls 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, she said, providing support “to anybody who’s going through anything in their life.”
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“When somebody calls the distress centre, they are getting a caring, compassionate voice on the other end there to listen and to help guide you to either community resources or to be a voice of support, a voice of hope,” she said.
For those with a friend or loved one grappling with grief and trauma, Scott said they can help simply by being a good listener.
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“Really use your active listening skills, reflect on what the person is saying and try to understand the grief and trauma that they’re going through,” she said.
Friends and family, can also encourage the person to seek additional help if necessary, Scott added.
Ottawa Public Health shared some information on dealing with stressful events on Friday.
The agency recommended taking steps such as trying to follow a normal routine, sticking to a healthy diet and exercise and limiting exposure to the “sights and sounds” of what happened, including through the media.
The agency said that the psychological impacts can occur right away or after the incident has passed.
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“After an emergency or disaster, people may feel dazed or even numb. They may also feel sad, helpless, or anxious. In spite of the tragedy, some people just feel happy to be alive,” the agency explained.
“It is not unusual to have bad memories or dreams. You may avoid places or people that remind you of the disaster. You might have trouble sleeping, eating, or paying attention.”