THE sheer scale of the damage wrought by the recent Wye, Kennett River and Separation Creek bushfires will have a profound effect on the mental health of many people.
Feelings of anxiety and distress are an understandable and normal response to the current situation and may be related to being directly at risk from the bushfires or being worried about the impact on family, friends or the local community.
People in fire-affected areas often suffer post-traumatic stress. If neglected, this can grow into larger concerns including mental health issues.
It is important for individuals to be aware of their stress levels. If you are worried, if there is a lack of sleep, anything out of the ordinary is a sign you need to do something.
It is vital people remember they are not alone and that there is help available should they need it.
How to seek help?
- Mental health support is available by calling Beyond Blue, Lifeline, Kids Helpline, State Mental Health Telephone Access Line and Victoria Rural Mental Health Support Line.
- Book an appointment with your GP to discuss any concerns or simply have a chat about your experience.
- Mental health specialist, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker.
- Community health centre
- Australian Centre for Post-traumatic Mental Health Tel. (03) 9035 5599
- Speak to a friend or family member.
Things to remember
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) develops in some people after they experience or witness an event that threatens their life or safety, or that of others around them.
- Symptoms include vivid memories, irritability, mood changes, feeling constantly on edge and avoiding reminders of the event.
- It is common for people to have some of the symptoms of PTSD in the first few days after the traumatic event. Most will recover by themselves or with the support of family and friends. Others may need professional help, especially children.
Dr David Mullen
Lorne Medical Centre