Beyond Blue has developed new information about mental health and natural disasters to support people living in bushfire affected areas.
The bushfires and mental health webpage, which can be found on the Beyond Blue website, offers practical advice on dealing with the emotional effects of bushfire, information about the signs and symptoms of emotional distress, links to useful resources and tips for supporting children and young people.
Beyond Blue chief executive officer Georgie Harman said signs of distress can take months or even years to emerge following a traumatic event, but it’s “never too early” to get informed.
“Right now, many people need the basics – shelter, food, water, fuel, cash and physical safety.
“Others may be returning to their affected communities. These are stressful times and it’s important we’re aware of how these things can affect our mental health, both in the immediate and longer term.
“It’s very normal to struggle with difficult thoughts and feelings during and after a disaster like this, and these feelings can be intense and confusing.”
She said these feelings are at their most severe in the first week after a traumatic event but in most cases fade within one month.
Common reactions to disasters include:
• Feeling overwhelmed, numb or detached
• Constant tearfulness and intrusive memories
• Irritability, difficulty sleeping or dreaming about the event
• Using alcohol or drugs to cope
• Constantly questioning the actions taken during the disaster
Ms Harman said people who experience common reactions for more than one month should talk to a GP or mental health professional. For more information, head to beyondblue.org.au.
If you are struggling with your mental health, help is available. Phone the Beyond Blue support service on 1300 22 4636 or chat online at beyondblue.org.au/get-support.