The bushfires that are devastating parts of NSW, Queensland and WA will leave thousands of people deeply affected.
Emergency services personnel, other workers and volunteers may also be affected. They work under enormous pressure and are exposed to devastation on a massive scale. For some people, the media coverage may also reactivate painful memories of a similar event from their past.
If you have been directly impacted, it is normal to feel frightened and unsettled. You may feel confused and have strong feelings of fear, sadness, guilt or anger; and you may be troubled by distressing thoughts and images. Look after yourself and seek the support of friends and family at this time. While it’s important to be informed of the facts, constantly checking news and social media sites can add to distress for some people, especially children.
If you know someone who has been affected, you can assist them by helping them regain a sense of safety and control. Help them to access a safe and secure environment and information about what has happened to family and friends, as well as any relevant services. Encourage them to spend time with family and friends which is critical in helping them to begin the recovery process.
For children, it is important to be open with them, in a way that they can understand:
• provide reassurance
• let them know that they are safe
• acknowledge their feelings if they are scared or upset
• respond to their questions, but limit excessive viewing of TV and social media coverage.
Once the direct threat is over, most people will find that any distressing feelings will settle down within a few days. If you continue to feel distressed, see your GP.