Bushfire trauma lasting in children

Bushfire trauma lasting in children

15 February 2008

published by www.abc.net.au

Australia — A study of children affected by the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires has found many are still traumatised by the experience.

Fifteen hundred children from rural primary schools around Mount Gambier in South Australia were examined after the fires, which killed 14 people and destroyed hundreds of homes in the area.

A follow-up study was completed twenty years later, making it the world’s longest-running study of children affected by traumatic events.

International expert on post traumatic stress disorders, Professor Sandy McFarlane, says a significant number of the children were likely to have left school earlier, married younger, and had more children.

“There was a small group of kids who continued to really be very pre-occupied by the fire”, he says.

“Out of about 600 that we managed to follow up, there were about 30 of them that were still having very high levels of distress, specifically associated with memories of what happened on that day, the losses that the families had sustained.

“It was still a major issue for them”.

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