Last fall, the BC Coroner’s Service released a report documenting the number of deaths that were related to the heat dome experienced last summer. Unfortunately, one of the most affected populations were those living with schizophrenia and severe and persistent mental illness. You can read the full report here.
In response to these findings, the BC Schizophrenia Society (BCSS) has been working to identify some tips for family members and people living with schizophrenia to keep in mind as the temperatures soar. The following have been adapted from resources found through Health Canada’s Resources for Extreme Heat Events, however, please also reach out to a medical professional to discuss your concerns and plans as you prepare for any environmental crisis.
- Identify Your Risk:
Not everyone is at risk of overheating the same way. Heat also affects everyone differently. Here are just a few potential heat related risk factors: age, diet (i.e. do you drink a lot of caffeine or alcohol, what do you normally eat, do you drink a lot of water), level of physical activity (i.e. are you generally active or inactive), are you a smoker, and what medications you take. All of these can impact our bodies abilities to manage or deal with heat.
- Know When To Take Action:
Pay attention to local weather forecasts and alerts to help you know when to be more aware of risks. When we are inside and the heat rises, it is easy for us to not notice how warm it is getting. For some people their bodies may sweat more to let them know that it is getting hotter in a room, but for others their bodies may not. Find a way to monitor the temperature of your room or apartment. Learn some of the symptoms or indicators of heat related health risks (i.e. heat rash, heat stroke, heat exhaustion, etc.). This can help you better identify and know when a person may need more help.
- Prepare a List of Solutions:
Make a list of the things that you can do to keep yourself, and maybe your place cool. Whether it is going outside to a park or place where there is air conditioning (i.e. local community centre, library, mall), taking cool showers throughout the day, or drawing your blinds to reflect out the light and heat from the hottest part of the day, start your list of things to do when you know the temperature is rising. If someone has a high body temperature and is either unconscious, confused, or has stopped sweating — call 911 or your local emergency number.
- Stay Connected:
Make plans to visit friends, family members, and neighbours during hot days. This can help them and help you. You may be able to notice something unusual in their behaviours that may indicate a heat related illness. You may also use this chance to ask for help or use it as a reminder to leave your home, which may be warmer than the conditions outdoors.