This summer has seen an unprecedented natural disaster throughout Australia. We have all bared witness to images, reports and family and friends effected by the bushfires.

These are moments in history that we will never forget as a community but sometimes these moments can impact us in a more intrusive way.

Australian Government mental health response to bushfire trauma

Numerous mental health initiatives have been introduced by the Australian Government to aid bushfire victims, with $76 million dedicated to funding numerous initiatives, including:

  • $44.3 million for counselling and psychological services for those on the fire fronts
  • $16 million to support emergency service workers and their families
  • $7.4 million supporting youth through headspace
  • $5.7 million for trauma informed care and care coordination
  • $2.7 million in community grants to help communities recover

Symptoms of trauma

It is normal to have a range of strong emotional or physical reactions following events such as bushfires.

Examples of common reactions to trauma can include:

  • Avoiding anything that reminds you of the traumatic event
  • Feeling in a constant state of high alert
  • Feeling stressed
  • Feeling anxious
  • Becoming emotionally numb
  • Nausea
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Increased heart rate

Supporting others

Maya Zerman, Director of Strategy and Operations at Epworth Clinic Mental Health Service reminded us that if you or someone you know is having a difficult time emotionally or physically there are some basic things that any of us can do to support them.

  • Check in on your neighbours or family members that are more socially isolated - a phone call or cup of tea can go a long way.
  • Every one person is unique and their experience and way of managing their recovery may be different. Be present, validate their/your experiences and feelings and be patient.
  • Remember that recovering from significant events can take time, be kind to yourself and don’t put too much pressure to feel like you did before the event too quickly.
  • Try and make sure you get a good amount of sleep each night and keep up some regular exercise or movement.
  • Find someone you feel safe and comfortable to talk to or to call when you feel ready or when the memories or feelings come up for you.
  • Remember to try and keep up with your usual pleasure activities like listening to the radio, going for a walk or spending time with people you care about.
  • Overusing drugs, alcohol or prescribed medications may make things harder in the long term – if you feel like this is becoming a problem for you reach out to someone you trust or your local GP.

You may want to reach our for additional support from a health professional if some of the emotions or worries continue for a long period or if you find its effecting your ability to do your usual day to day tasks.

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