• Don Mackenzie

Bushfires and trauma

Updated: Nov 10, 2019

As we know, Australia is very vulnerable to bushfires. Currently, multiple bushfires have now broken out across the mid north coast and other parts of the country. The smells, sights and sounds of bushfires often trigger traumatic reactions in people who might be vulnerable.

A firefighter at Crestwood, Port Macquarie. Photo: The Australian

Signs of trauma

Following a bushfire or traumatic disaster, you may notice physcial, emotional or behavioural changes in yourself such as: sleep or appetite problems; avoidance of reminders of the event; mood changes (crying easily, sadness and irritability); anxiety or fear; and isolation or withdrawal. This is all normal following a significant incident. These signs tend to subside or diminish in most people 3-4 weeks following the incident and you can get back to your routine.

Helpful thinking

Often traumatic reactions involve negative attributions or feeling towards yourself or the outside world. Catastrophising like "Things will always be dangerous if I live near the bush" or generalising like "Nothing I do can make me safe", can make feelings of distress and sadness worse. It is important to challenge automatic thoughts and remind yourself that thoughts are different from feelings. Try and come up with an alternative and notice how other people might look at things.

Where to seek help

If you don't recover back to your normal routine within a month following a significant event like the bushfires, it is important to discuss your symptoms with your GP. Local organisations such as headspace, Community Health and counsellors can also assist. If you prefer to remain anonymous you can also phone national helplines such as Lifeline (13 11 14) or Beyond Blue (1300 224 636). There are also some great online resources at:

#trauma #bushfires #selfcare

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