Coping with the impact of bushfires

27 January 2020

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AUSTRALIA – With so many communities and individuals impacted by the bushfires, the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program (RAMHP) team reminds people they are not alone – it is normal to feel overwhelmed and there are strategies and support which can help.

During any disaster, it is normal and very common for people to be stressed and anxious, RAMHP manager Tessa Caton says.

“People in bushfire affected areas may be experiencing memories of the fire or they may be feeling anxious as the body goes into ‘fight or flight’ mode. They may be feeling sadness, anger or guilt that they couldn’t do more or have difficulty sleeping.

“These are all normal reactions.”

It is when these feelings and emotions last more than a few weeks, or people stop doing things they’d usually be doing, when seeking help is important. The earlier we find help, the better chance we have to reduce our risk of mental health problems in the future.

Tessa says during and following a bushfire disaster, there are some self-care strategies you and your family can use to keep well:

  • try to spend time with family and friends; take time out but don’t isolate yourself
  • try to get back to a routine but don’t push yourself and work too hard
  • know that you won’t have all the answers
  • accept that it is okay to not be okay and ask for support
  • accept help when its offered
  • understand you are not alone in your experience
  • express your feelings in your own time and way

While it’s normal to be distressed and upset by what has happened and the losses which have occurred, you should see a mental health professional for assistance if you are experiencing extreme feelings of distress; emotional reactions that are lasting longer than a few weeks; distress that is interfering with your ability to carry out day-to-day activities; feelings of overwhelming fear or panic symptoms (e.g. racing heart, lightheaded, breathing difficulties); or thoughts of self-harm or suicide.


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