Natural disasters like bushfires, drought, floods and other traumatic events can have lasting impacts upon affected individuals, their loved ones and communities. These events are often overwhelming, and it can be challenging to know where to turn to for trusted information after escaping the immediate threat of the disaster, particularly for those who help others cope, including health practitioners and recovery workers.
That’s why in 2021, with funding from the Australian Government, we launched Phoenix Australia’s Disaster Mental Health Hub, one of very few Australian platforms that is dedicated to those who support individuals and communities impacted by disaster.
The hub acts as a cross-disciplinary one-stop-shop that maximises the capacity of Primary Health Network’s (PHN’s), GP’s, other practitioners and recovery workers to meet the mental health needs of disaster-impacted communities across Australia.
The hub caters to these providers who are seeking to upskill in disaster mental health and remain abreast of current best practices by offering information, resources and training programs that work to support the mental health of individuals and communities before, during and after a disaster.
We have formulated specialised toolkits that provide advice on how to make sense of disaster, problem-solving and staying connected in times of crisis and support for people suffering from pre-existing mental health issues or addiction during disaster.
Through our research, it has become fundamentally clear that some groups in disaster-affected regional and rural areas may already be marginalised, and can be overwhelmed by the additional stressors they are subject to during and after a disaster. Events such as floods and high-impact bushfires that have torn across much of our country continue to impart lasting traumas upon communities, and the COVID-19 pandemic has been a significant obstacle to mental health recovery from these traumas – especially given what we know about the importance of community and connectedness in aiding recovery from trauma.
The digital nature of what the hub offers, including online training, makes support accessible in spite of the pandemic, and other barriers to face-to-face support including location, disability and socioeconomic status. We want to ensure every Australian who supports others can access the help they need in spite of these barriers.
The Disaster Mental Health Hub is a fantastic resource for the helpers, and we are working hard to ensure that Phoenix Australia can continue to be a source of support for those in need.
With your help, we hope to continue to develop new resources and training like what’s on offer at the Disaster Mental Health Hub across a wider range of areas, including specific resources and training for community members in need.