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  • Writer's pictureKate Bradshaw

Support for People Impacted by Bush Fires

The bush-fire season is a stressful time for a lot of people.

Preparing for the bush-fire season isn’t only about physical preparation, such as getting your house or property ready. It’s also important that you prepare yourself emotionally. You might think of this as becoming mentally fit and prepared. As summer and a new bush-fire season approaches, it is normal to feel stressed, worried and anxious, especially if you have been impacted by bush-fires before. Now is the time to emotionally prepare, so you’re better able to manage if there is a new fire near you.

It is normal to feel anxious during this time, and this anxiety may be worse for people who have been affected by bush-fires in the past. During a threat or emergency such as a bush-fire, our bodies are placed in a heightened state of alert. This is a natural response to danger that helps us deal with immediate circumstances. The heightened state helps us, think clearly plan and make decisions set priorities based on the immediate situation. This is a natural response, but maintaining this state through a long period, such as the bush-fire season, can take its toll. It can make your mind and body fatigued and less efficient.

Major events such as the current NSW bush fires that cause widespread loss and distress impact the whole community. People recovering from bush fires are encouraged to access mental health and counselling services.

The Rural Mental Health Program (RAMHP) has coordinators in bush fire affected areas working directly with communities and visiting evacuation centres. They are providing on the ground support, connecting people to support and assistance. The Rural Adversity Mental Health Program (RAMHP) team is encouraging anyone who has been impacted by the recent bush-fires to prioritise their own mental health and well-being as well as those around them. People can be at an increased risk of developing anxiety and depression after a traumatic event, but help is available.

Following on from any disaster, it is normal for people to feel overwhelmed, worry a lot more than usual, have trouble concentrating and making decisions. It is when these feelings and emotions last more than a few weeks, or people stop doing things they'd usually be doing, that seeking help is important. The earlier we notice a problem and find help, the better chance we have of a quick recovery and we reduce our risk of mental health problems in the future. Following on from a bush-fire there are things you can do to take care of yourself and your mental health or the mental health of someone you know.

  • spend time with family and friends

  • take time out but don't isolate yourself

  • accept help when its offered

  • limit the amount of media coverage you see and hear

  • understand you are not alone in your experience

  • write down your worries and concerns

  • express your feelings in your own time and way

  • know you won't have all the answers

  • try not to take big risks and make life changing decisions until you are ready

NSW Chief Psychiatrist, Dr Murray Wright, said many people, including those who are usually healthy and strong, may be experiencing sadness, sleep disturbance, fear or anxiety.

Anyone experiencing persistent issues impacting their day-to-day lives are encouraged to talk to their GP or regular health care provider.

If at any time you are worried about your mental health or the mental health of a loved one, please call the following services below;

  • NSW Mental Health Line 1800 011 511

  • Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467

  • Mental Health Line 1800 011 511

  • Lifeline 13 11 14

  • Mensline 1300 789 978

  • Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800

  • Beyondblue 1300 22 4636

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