Beyondblue targets fire trauma

Beyondblue targets fire trauma

16 April 2013

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Australia — CHILDREN traumatised by the Tasmanian bushfires will be assessed and offered help through a beyondblue program.

The Child and Adolescent Bushfire Disaster Response will be launched today at Dunalley Primary School by beyondblue board members.

Beyondblue aims to reduce the impact of depression and anxiety in the community by raising awareness and understanding, empowering people to seek help, and supporting recovery.

Chairman and former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett said it was an adaptation of a program that helped children after the 2011 Queensland floods and will be rolled out to Tasmanian bushfire communities.

“A natural disaster can be an incredibly stressful time for children and parents alike and, if this stress is prolonged, it can lead to serious mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety,” Mr Kennett said.

“The reason we’re launching this now is because many children are affected in the weeks after a natural disaster, but gradually recover, whereas those who are seriously traumatised still have symptoms several months later.

“This approach is about ensuring people and particularly children affected by the bushfires get the very best help from experts in the field. It is multi-layered and evidence-based and will be delivered by mental health professionals in a way that offers support for everybody.

“Immediately after a natural disaster, there is a lot of action and effort, but later people may feel the level of support has dropped away. With this project, we want people to know that beyondblue is here for the long-haul.”

The board of beyondblue is meeting in Hobart today and will then travel by bus to Dunalley.

Directors Natasha Stott Despoja and Professor Brett McDermott and chief executive officer Kate Carnell will also visit the tiny coastal township.

Members of the community have been told about the program, teachers will receive training and parents will take part in seminars that aim to help identify emotional and behavioural difficulties that may be part of a child’s post-trauma response.

Associate Professor Vanessa Cobham, a clinical psychologist, co-founded the program with Prof McDermott, who is a psychiatrist.

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