Recovering after a natural disaster
Natural disasters like bushfires, floods, cyclones, drought and other traumatic ‘natural’ events are extremely challenging for the people directly affected. The stress caused following a natural disaster can lead to ‘burnout’ and physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. Some people will be able to manage the stress but for others it may be difficult to cope. Most people eventually heal and recover and go on to rebuild their lives.
- Tool Kit: Getting through bushfires, drought and extreme climate events
- Tool Kit: Helping your children cope after a bushfire
- Tool Kit: Coping with loss and change in the community after a bushfire
- Tool Kit: Coping with Grief and Loss
The impacts of a natural disaster
- Feeling stressed, anxious, exhausted or confused
- Feeling sad, overwhelmed or angry
- Shock, feeling ‘numb’
- Uncertainty about the future
- Feeling lonely, isolated or withdrawn
- Feeling unwell – headaches, difficulty sleeping, eating, weight loss/gain
- Resentment or blaming others
- Increased substance use
- Thoughts of suicide or self-harm
Strategies to help you cope after a natural disaster
Recovery takes time. It is important to allow yourself time to process your circumstances and regain a sense of normalcy. There are things you can do to heal and rebuild.
- Recognise when it’s getting too much - watch out for signs of stress and get extra support when things become overwhelming. Allow yourself extra time to get things done.
- Talk - release your emotions and tension by talking to someone you trust. This can help put things into perspective. It’s likely others in your community are experiencing similar feelings so this gives everyone an opportunity to release negative feelings and discuss practical ways to deal with the situation.
- Develop an action plan - decide who’s going to do what and when. Summarise your financial situation and discuss your options with your bank to alleviate stress of any financial concerns. Having a plan will help you feel you are making progress.
- Take care of yourself - eat well, exercise and sleep. Try to get back to your normal routine when you feel ready. Wherever possible, schedule extra time for things you enjoy or that you find relaxing.
- Get help - lean on family and friends. Strong support networks can provide emotional or practical support. Explain your needs and tell them exactly how they can help. Make a list of places to go to for help e.g. financial assistance, emotional support, your GP a helpline Like Lifeline.
- Consider professional help - If you don’t feel some return to normal after four weeks, seek professional help (earlier if needed).
Helping children cope after a natural disaster
- Give your children extra attention and reassurance. Let them know they are not responsible for what has happened.
- Acknowledge your own feelings about the situation and let your children know its ok to share their own feelings.
- Include your children in plans for the future.
- Try to get back to a normal routine as quickly as possible. This provides a sense of security.
- If you don’t see an improvement in 4 weeks, or you’re concerned seek professional help (earlier if needed).
Where to go for help
- Your GP
- Kids Helpline
- The Salvation Army
- St Vincent de Paul
- For state specific assistance, see Department of Human Services
- National Bushfire Recover Agency: https://pmc.gov.au/domestic-policy/national-bushfire-recovery-agency
Lifeline Holding on to Hope podcast: Brendan Cullen shares the strategies in his 'tool box' for coping with the effects of drought. His story can be heard by searching Holding on to Hope wherever you get your favourite podcasts, or by clicking here and selecting Brendan's Story.
Life In Mind have created a comprehensive list of all bushfire resources available across the many organisations working in the mental health sector.
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- Crisis payments information
- Kids Helpline
- 1800 55 1800