The August 8th fires on Maui brought devastating loss of lives, homes and businesses. That’s not all that was lost. Many have yet to find a sense of community, calm and comfort, even several months later. Everyone on Maui remains affected in one way or another, with some continuing to feel lost, forlorn and frustrated.
Jessica Brazil and her team at Mindful Living Group were among the first into shelters and hubs after the fires, working with other community leaders in those crucial days. Their compassionate, professional crew offered counseling and mental health support to the shocked, shattered and shaken. As time has passed, they’ve continue to offer help in the ways they can, understanding the importance of supporting so many people who still have no stable residence to call home.
“When our basic needs or sense of safety is disrupted, we are extremely vulnerable; we do need to reach out for help, we do need to receive,” says Brazil, who started Mindful Living Group in Kīhei in 2017. “It takes courage, and the research does say that those who ask for help and are willing to receive it are more likely to get better and not suffer as long.”
A Mindful Approach to Mental Health
Mindful Living Group takes an integrative approach to mental health, welcoming traditional methods like counseling, psychology and psychiatry along with holistic modalities like acupuncture, bodywork and cultural practices. Brazil is a licensed social worker who’s served the community for around 20 years with a specialization in early childhood development and trauma. Her vision was to bring like-minded professionals together to respect the mind-body connection and “embrace many paths toward healing” in the creation of Mindful Living Group.
“We’re all going to experience pain in our lives, but suffering is that prolonged pain,” she says. “So when we allow ourselves to receive help, when we work together as a community, when we’re willing to recognize when we’re outside of our scope of resilience and are able to navigate and be open to support, that’s when we really see the healing and transformation happen.”
Preventing the Onset of PTSD
When it comes to disasters, it’s important to recognize that need for help quickly. Brazil says an acute stress response is natural after a life-altering event. However for some, if neglected over many months, could become post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and should be taken seriously.
“We can avoid the PTSD pandemic if we’re willing to reach out and get help now, if there are prolonged sleep problems, prolonged heart palpitations, panic, anxiety, despair or hopelessness and if there is a pattern of isolation and/or avoidance of triggers,” Brazil explains. “Grief is normal. And we can process grief as a community, but going through a disaster, there are many people who are going to need more than their neighbor; they may need a little more specialized support.”
Help Yourself Right Now
We’re approaching Month 4 in the aftermath of the Maui fires, and it’s natural that many people might still be struggling after such a traumatic event. We asked Brazil to share three practical tips for folks who might be feeling overwhelmed. What can they do in that moment to help themselves? See the advice in the video below…
Brazil encourages people to take one step toward wellness in whatever direction feels most comfortable to them, whether that’s scheduling with a therapist, trying out an acupuncture session, taking part in a group workshop, or something completely different. It’s about making yourself and your healing a priority, staying mindful along the journey and acknowledging that it’s okay to not feel okay.
“Somebody would recognize if they need some extra help immediately if they had prolonged sleep loss, either excessive or not enough; if there’s re-living of the events, visually, auditory, sensory; the nervous system tends to have a hard time with that and isn’t able to find a fluid cadence. After a few months, if senses are overly active or easily startled, it’d be important to get some support around that.”
Mindful Living Group is Dedicated to Maui
If you choose to look into Mindful Living Group as an option, they accept nearly all Hawai‘i-based health insurances, and staff five nurse practitioners and 14 licensed therapists with locations in Kīhei, Makawao and on O‘ahu.
The main message Brazil wants our island to know is “you are not alone, we are in this together, we are resilient, and we have a really unique opportunity to build a better world, starting right here, right now.”
If you’d like to learn about an energy-based experience that promotes emotional, mental, physical and spiritual healing, see Maui’s Harmonic Egg: Wellness from Within.