The Australian Red Cross is urging communities to be aware of the longer-term psychological and emotional impacts of last summer’s bushfires as many areas approach their 12-month anniversary of the disaster.
“Everyone copes differently. But we know that, a year on, it’s very common for people to still be struggling in their personal recovery. For others, new emotions may surface during the anniversary, which is very normal,” said Dr Kate Brady, National Recovery Adviser at the Red Cross.
“Disasters can have really profound impacts on people’s lives and the effects are often felt for many years. There are lots of emotions people can feel after a major crisis – such as shock, numbness, fear, helplessness, anger and frustration.”
Community members must look after each other
Dr Brady advises that, for people affected, this is the time to take good care of themselves, and the Red Cross is encouraging community members to look after each other. People should check in with each other to offer support. They should also seek professional help where necessary.
“Dealing with events like this over the longer term can be stressful and emotionally and physical exhausting. The Red Cross will continue to work with recovering communities [and] work with other agencies to support bushfire-affected communities,” she said.
Dr Rob Gordon, a psychologist and Australian Red Cross consultant in disaster recovery, believes those in bushfire-impacted communities can prepare themselves and take control during an anniversary.
An important part of creating a sense of history
“Anniversaries are a very important part of creating a sense of history. Putting things into the past helps us to put the present into perspective, allowing us to recover,” Dr Gordon said.
“Some people may feel that they don’t want to think about the anniversary because it’s upsetting. But it’s incredibly difficult to avoid acknowledging [them].
“Make a plan for the anniversary. Be prepared for there to be some emotion. Ask yourself: Who do you want to be there with you on the anniversary [to] support you?”