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Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Micah Hahn; Georgia J. Michlig; Amanda Hansen; Liam Manning; Jura L. Augustinavicius
Publication Date: 2023

Previous studies have linked wildfires to a range of adverse mental health outcomes, but there has been limited research on the mental health impacts of wildfire in Alaska, an area undergoing rapid environmental change. We used a multi-level qualitative approach to identify mental health and psychosocial problems, coping, existing support, and gaps in support among communities who were affected by the Swan Lake and McKinley fires in Alaska in 2019. We recruited 39 community members from Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula to participate in free list interviews, a community ranking workshop, and in-depth interviews, and we recruited 12 professional key informants including wildland firefighters, mental health providers, community advocates, policy makers, and public health professionals to participate in in-depth interviews and a discussion-based workshop. There were several locally-defined categories of mental health issues identified in relation to wildfires in southcentral Alaska in 2019. Key informants who work in the region identified a package of communications-related interventions as being the most impactful and actionable support for wildfire-related mental health concerns. Additional highly rated mental health supports centered around leadership acknowledging the connection between wildfire and mental health, connecting community members to formal or informal systems of mental health care, enhancing the emergency shelter system, and providing crises debriefing during wildfire evacuations. The results of this study can be utilized to facilitate implementation of prevention and response activities to support mental health resilience during wildfires in Alaska and other wildfire-affected regions.

Online Links
Citation: Hahn, Micah B.; Michlig, Georgia J.; Hansen, Amanda; Manning, Liam; Augustinavicius, Jura L. 2023. Mental health during wildfires in Southcentral Alaska: An assessment of community-derived mental health categories, interventions, and implementation considerations. PLOS Climate 2(10):e0000300.

Cataloging Information

  • 2019 McKinley Fire
  • 2019 Swan Lake Fire
  • mental health
  • southcentral Alaska
Record Last Modified:
Record Maintained By: FRAMES Staff (
FRAMES Record Number: 69018