Immediate and practical support is available for communities affected by the South Australian bushfires, beyondblue CEO Georgie Harman said today, as people face continued threats to their homes and local areas.
An easy-to-use information card and booklet continuing advice for anyone dealing with the emotional impact of a natural disaster are both available to download from beyondblue.org.au.
Ms Harman said that while the bushfires continued and people faced continued risks to their homes and livelihoods they would face a range of emotions.
“Living through a natural disaster is an incredibly stressful experience,” she said.
“Some people may have lost their home or come close to doing so, lost a pet or stock and other irreplaceable things from their home. People will experience a range of feelings as they come to terms with the impact of the bushfires and this is to be expected.”
beyondblue Board Director Professor Brett McDermott said it was very important for people to take care of themselves in the event of a natural disaster and in the months following.
“The impact of devastating bushfires is felt by communities long after the flames are extinguished. It’s normal for people who have been affected to feel overwhelmed and many will experience emotions including shock, fear, distress, confusion, anger, anxiety, grief and sadness,” he said.
“These are normal reactions to a traumatic event and people will manage their feelings in different ways. As people work their way through the difficult tasks of repairing and rebuilding their homes and communities, in most cases the severity of these strong emotions will lessen on their own without treatment.
“However, if the distress and emotional reactions persist when other people seem to be recovering or if you’re finding it hard to carry out day-to-day activities when you think you should be able to, speak to a health professional.”
Mental health professionals are available 24/7 at the beyondblue Support Service on 1300 22 4636 or via www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support for email or online chat (3pm till midnight).
beyondblue and the Red Cross have a Memorandum of Understanding to work collaboratively when emergencies and disasters cross over with depression and anxiety, sharing knowledge and expertise in their programs, education, training and research.
beyondblue’s resources were developed in the aftermath of the 2009 Victorian bushfires and updated after Cyclone Yasi struck Queensland in 2011. They were developed in association with the Australian Red Cross, the Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health and the Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement.
To download the Emotional Responses After a Natural Disaster Information Card or Looking After Yourself After a Disaster Booklet, visit beyondblue.org.au.
If you or someone you know has been affected by the bushfire in South Australia, you can search for a counsellor on the Australia Counselling national directory here.