Counselling and mental health support is being offered at 21 evacuation centres for people affected by the fire emergency in northern NSW.
The Land's Glovebox Guide to Mental Health is also being handed out at some centres. (http://specialpubs.austcommunitymedia.com.au/e-mags/2019/TL5/1003_01/)
There are also a number of online forums and services helping people cope with the ongoing stress and trauma of the fires, that are listed below.
The NSW Minister for Mental Health Bronnie Taylor has encouraged people recovering directly from bushfires to access mental health and counselling services.
"My message to the brave people in fire ravaged communities like those of Northern NSW, the Mid-North Coast and the Hunter is to reach out for help and tap into the counselling and mental health services available on the ground," Mrs Taylor said.
"The widespread loss and distress caused by a major event such as this impacts the whole the community, and those affected need support now and in the months ahead.
"Disaster Welfare Services, including counselling support, are currently being provided at 21 Evacuation Centres across the state."
NSW Chief Psychiatrist, Dr Murray Wright, said many people, including those who are usually healthy and strong, may be experiencing sadness, sleep disturbance, fear or anxiety.
"This is a very normal reaction, and may be experienced immediately or sometimes much later," Dr Wright said.
He said anyone experiencing persistent issues impacting their day-to-day lives are encouraged to talk to their General Practitioner or regular health care provider.
The Government said that the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program (RAMHP), which operates across rural and remote NSW, has co-ordinators in fire affected areas working directly with communities, providing on the ground support, connecting people to support and assistance and visiting evacuation centres daily.
"To contact your local RAMHP Coordinator go to https://www.ramhp.com.au/ and type in your postcode.
"To contact your local mental health service call the NSW Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511. Alternatively you can call Lifeline on 131114. For practical assistance call the Disaster Welfare Assistance Line 1800 018 444."
Also Beyond Blue is offering some online services:
- The Beyond Blue Support Service provides advice and support via telephone 24/7 (just call 1300 22 4636), daily web chat (between 3pm-12am) and email (with a response provided within 24 hours).
- We offer tips on coping with disasters: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/looking-after-yourself-after-a-disaster
- There's also a bushfire thread on our online forums, where people can share stories and coping tips (anonymously): https://www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support/online-forums
Former NSW Farmers president Derek Schoen has just joined the Beyond Blue board as its farmer representative and he said he understood the trauma some farmers would be going through with the current fires.
Mr Schoen said it was also a time when farmers, who are generally self-reliant, would be confronted by offers of help, and though grateful, would also need to deal with that situation as well.
"I think it's important that after the fires that people recognise if they are not coping, and also that neighbours see if someone else is not coping, or might have anxiety. Often when the adrenalin wears off, that's when these things can surface.
"I think also people have to be sensitive to farmers' circumstances, they are very raw after something like this, and it doesn't take much to aggravate that. How do you react to an act of generosity without feeling greedy? It can be a difficult thing to work through."