Bushfire impact study

Bushfire impact study

04 June 2013

published by www.themercury.com.au

Australia — TASMANIAN families are being encouraged to take part in a research project that will look at the psychological effects the January bushfires have had on children.

The project, undertaken by researchers at the University of Tasmania, asks parents and children aged between nine and 18 to do a short online survey about their feelings and behaviour after the fires.

The answers will help researchers better understand emotional responses to traumatic events and develop ways to help children affected by natural disasters.

Researchers are seeking contributions from the wider community — not only those directly affected by the fires.

They hope those who read, heard and saw news reports about the fires will complete the survey.

Kimberley Norris, who will conduct the research with School of Psychology student Ashlee Flakemore, said evidence suggested even children not directly impacted by the bushfires could suffer emotional scars, especially in a close-knit state such as Tasmania.

Dr Norris said normal social and cognitive functioning could be negatively impacted by feelings of despair, anxiety, fear and sadness after a traumatic event, which could intensify and even lead to post traumatic stress disorder.

She said signs varied with previously outgoing children becoming withdrawn or clingy and quieter children becoming more boisterous.

Dr Norris said others might have nightmares or become overly concerned about safety.

She said previous research had shown that parents’ reactions to traumatic events could have an impact on children.

The researchers hope at least 200 people will take part. All responses are confidential and each survey takes 20-30 minutes to complete.

Those who take part will be eligible for a competition with $25 gift vouchers up for grabs.

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