Working a camp job can put added stress on families, but making an effort to stay in touch while on the road can help relieve some of the anxiety, according to Maureen Davis, the executive director of the Prince George branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association .
Davis said working in a camp away from home can be challenging due to the isolation from family, the disruption of normal routines and the lack of privacy. She said taking the time to set up a support network before beginning work can help alleviate some of that stress.
"We're in an age that allows that so well," Davis said. "People can have all sorts of concerns about the addictive nature of computers, but when it comes to camp to be able to Skype, to be able to get on Facebook, to be able to connect and stay in touch with what's going on with your family and friends, I think it's a godsend."
Acknowledging that camp life can be stressful is an important first step. Davis said people often begin working in a camp without considering how the nature of the job will impact the rest of their life and their mental health.
"I think it can come as a big surprise to some people," she said. "The studies show that there are huge increases in depression and huge increases in anxiety."
That added stress can be made worse if someone is dealing with a major event in their lives, such as the birth of a child or going through a divorce. Davis said taking those problems on the job can pose real risks for a workplace injury, due to a loss focus during a shift.
If steps aren't taken to deal with some of the mental health issues that can spring up when someone is separated from their loved ones for a long period of time, Davis said it can lead to substance abuse.
"That can land you in a lot of difficulty and a lot of trouble," she said. "It can dig the hole deeper."
In addition to keeping close ties with loved ones, Davis said camp workers should develop hobbies that they can do while away from home. She suggested activities like writing, photography, music or taking a class because they are things that can be done individually in a contained environment.
At camps where workers are together with the same crew every time they're on site, Davis said the opportunity exists to create support networks away from home.
Family members of the camp worker can also deal with some of the same anxiety as the person in the camp, Davis said, especially if they're going through a major life change like pregnancy or moving to a new community to be closer to the camp job site.
"Sometimes this is a brand new community for that family member and again you have all the same issues as though they've been dumped into a camp," she said. "They're building new connections."
For family members living in a town or city, Davis recommended they get involved in activities like volunteer work or taking a course at a local university or college.
For people dealing with ongoing stress and anxiety related to being away from home, a visit to a family doctor is a good first stop.
"If you're struggling with depression or anxiety as a result of separation from a loved one we have a number of resources through Northern Health and all it takes is picking up a phone and calling," Davis said.
The Canadian Mental Health Association also offers its Bounce Back program throughout northern B.C. The phone-based counseling is aimed at people suffering mild to moderate anxiety and coaches them through different coping mechanisms and life strategies to prevent the depression and anxiety from becoming overwhelming.