Bushfires: Australia Faces Mental Health Challenge

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Bushfires: Australia Faces Mental Health Challenge

Postby Squire » 09 Jan 2020, 13:11

It is already evident in the rage against Scott Morrison and his cabinet of bungling incompetent clowns.

There's going to be more anger when homeowners get their house insurance policy renewals which are sure to rise substantially.

The fact that the resources of Australian governments were helpless in the face of fires is going to be very depressing.

The 2019-20 fire season will be debated for a long time.

https://time.com/5759685/australian-bushfires-mental-health/

As Bushfires Rage, Australia Faces Another Challenge: Protecting National Mental Health

BY JAMIE DUCHARME
JANUARY 8, 2020

As wildfires continue blazing a deadly path through Australia, leaving destroyed homes and landscapes in their wake, people and countries around the world are coming together to offer financial and firefighting assistance. But with months of burning likely still to go, and 18 million acres of destruction already recorded, along with 24 lives lost, it’s clear that reconstruction will be a long process—both in terms of physical rebuilding, and psychological recovery.

“Their national psyche will change,” says California-based psychotherapist Diane Ross-Glazer, who has counseled disaster survivors and lived through wildfires herself. “You’re not only grieving what you lost; you’re grieving for your country.”

Trauma of any kind can result in lingering distress not only for direct sufferers, but also for those who witness or read about a disaster or tragedy. Natural disasters and climate-change-induced extreme weather fall into this category, according to the American Psychological Association (APA).

The grief, stress and fear that come along with wildfires can result in mood swings, depression, flashbacks and relational strain, according to the APA. Young children, who do not fully understand or know how to cope with the situation, may be particularly at risk, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Gerard Jacobs, director emeritus of the Disaster Mental Health Institute at the University of South Dakota says traumatic stress—which he defines as stress that leads to an emotional response affecting behavior, thoughts or physical well-being—is an ordinary reaction to extraordinary circumstances, and doesn’t always turn into a psychological disorder. Events that are unexpected, large in magnitude or particularly deadly—like the Australian wildfires—are especially likely to trigger stress responses, he says. For most people, these feelings naturally clear up after about four to six weeks, but those who struggle longer may want to seek professional help, Jacobs says.

Australia’s government has already earmarked $2 billion for a National Bushfire Recovery Agency, which will address everything from ecological and infrastructure restoration to ongoing mental health support for Australian citizens. Australian states and territories affected by the fires have also established localized government agencies and relief funds meant to aid rebuilding and recovery. And while the fires wage on, government agencies are pointing people suffering acute mental distress toward resources including 24/7 crisis help lines and emergency relief centers.

Dr. Murray Wright, chief psychiatrist for the state of New South Wales, says his staff is working to prioritize mental health professionals’ time, sending more into heavily affected areas and focusing on at-risk populations such as first responders and people with preexisting mental health issues. That’s the current priority, but Wright says there will be a “building need” for counseling services over the next six to 24 months, and it’s crucial for people to “have an awareness that they need to self-monitor and look out for the well-being of people around them.”

But both research and survivors’ stories suggest these efforts are fighting an uphill battle. An Australian study published in 2014 found that, about three years after the so-called Black Saturday bushfires killed 173 people and leveled huge swaths of land, more than 15% of respondents in heavily affected areas reported probable PTSD associated with the fires, while 13% reported depression and almost 25% reported heavy drinking. Of the 10% of respondents who said they had “severe” psychological distress, a third said they had not seen a mental health professional in the prior month.

Places repeatedly ravaged by wildfires, like Australia and California, at least have the benefit of learning from prior experiences. After the Black Saturday fires, the state of Victoria developed a blueprint for guiding post-disaster mental health support, including programs like training counselors in schools; providing parent and post-disaster support groups; and offering vouchers for free counseling and other wellness services.

“In Victoria we know all too well that recovery is not as simple as rebuilding infrastructure. It’s something that can take us not just months, but years—and we need to support people and their mental health every step of the way as they deal with the trauma,” said Luke Donnellan, the state’s acting minister for mental health, in a statement provided to TIME.

But learning from experience comes at a high cost for repeat sufferers. Dr. Joshua Weil, an emergency medicine physician at Kaiser Permanente in Santa Rosa, Calif., thought he was living a once-in-a-lifetime nightmare when the 2017 Tubbs Fire leveled his home and forced him to lead an evacuation of his hospital. But this past October, Weil found himself doing it all over again: his house—though ultimately spared—was again in the path of a fire, and Kaiser again had to evacuate.

Weil says his mental health suffered after the first fire, as he grappled with the loss of family photos and other artifacts he held dear. “Everything that anchored my life was gone. I felt like I was detached,” he says. “I definitely felt, particularly in the first six to nine months after the fires, that I was riskier in my behavior, because I think I felt less attached to things.”

After the second wildfire, Weil says, he became aware of other effects, like the lingering anxiety that comes from living in a place likely to experience even more disasters as climate change brings ever-more extreme weather. “Every October, do we simply not make plans because they may be disrupted?” he says. “It’s our new reality.”

A number of organizations are pitching in to help with persistent psychological effects in California, including Weil’s employer: Kaiser Permanente has put $3.3 million toward mental health support for California wildfire victims since 2017. The Northern Sonoma County Healthcare Foundation launched an initiative called the Wildfire Mental Health Collaborative, which offers training and grants to mental health professionals, as well as tools like a bilingual help website and yoga and meditation sessions for survivors. Health tech company Overlap Health also launched Sonoma Rises, a mental health app targeted toward fire survivors. In Australia, groups like Beyond Blue have provided psychosocial support training for community leaders.

Ross-Glazer says it’s key to bring people together as they grieve, and to keep that connection going for months or even years after a disaster via public support groups, memorials and ceremonies. “These people won’t move back to life as they knew it, because the fabric of their life has been ripped,” Ross-Glazer says. “This isn’t an event; it’s a process.”

Jacobs adds that it’s important to remember that traumatic stress is normal—in fact, he says, research suggests accepting stress as normal may prevent it from turning into a long-term problem. That includes acknowledging it in children as well, and working through it to help them return to a sense of stability and routine. “Children need to talk about it as much as adults do, and it’s important that we not dismiss children’s fears and concerns,” Jacobs says. “Eating well, getting sleep, and what may seem like common sense kind of things actually do help people cope with stress. For children, the more you can return the order of things,” the better.

Weil recalls the importance of connection in his and his community’s recovery. “Don’t try to do it alone,” Weil says. “[Survivors] need to look within themselves and at the people who stood by them and know that they can rely on them and rely on themselves in a way they never knew before.”
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Re: Bushfires: Australia Faces Mental Health Challenge

Postby HBS Guy » 09 Jan 2020, 16:27

Yup, so many people who lost so much, incl animals not just physical assets. No farm no job etc. Hits a man hard!
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Re: Bushfires: Australia Faces Mental Health Challenge

Postby Lols » 09 Jan 2020, 17:20

Being dislocated from your home like lost wandering souls.
I learnt much from our friends that lost it all in the 2009 black Saturday fires.
Totally upheaveled.
Some hints here for those that are in tree surrounds is to scan and email to yourself so it’s accessible from anywhere, are your certificates, documents, (relating to your profession etc) ID (licence etc) and insurance details, because when things happen, they happen fast. Most people only had time to grab their mobile phone, but no chargers.
When some residents wanted to go back to their place, to see if it survived or not, they were met with police and security blocks, wanting proof of ID they lived there.

Since 2009, when we were on standby as fires crept towards back of our town, I have felt nervous living here, we stress every summer. We’ve been in the area forever but I don’t want to be anymore.

We keep our property so very clean and short grass, but our surrounding neighbours don’t, they are city yuppies doing a country living thang.
The rear neighbour had gotten old and does nothing. The shrub and thick growth under the tall gums right to our fenceline stresses us. People should not be on large properties if they are unable to care for the land, or too lazy, or don’t know how to use a tractor and slasher or flail mower.
We have the local fire brigade that have given us compliments about our property.

Now I’ve had my whinge about the stupid neighbours, my next whinge is, insurance premiums.
Our house/contents went up from $1000 to $1400 per annum. And all our other insurances have gone up an average of $200 each.
I phone to ask why, why so much! Since we’ve not made any claims for years.
The reason it goes up is because of other people making insurance claims.
"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themsleves and wiser people so full of doubts" ~ Bertrand Russell
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Re: Bushfires: Australia Faces Mental Health Challenge

Postby HBS Guy » 09 Jan 2020, 17:29

Sucks, doesn’t it? You do the right thing yet others don’t and you pay more and have a higher risk. Why live in the bush if you can’t take the steps you need to live there safely?
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Re: Bushfires: Australia Faces Mental Health Challenge

Postby Lols » 09 Jan 2020, 17:43

Yeah, that’s the annoying thing. It’s a hit and miss scenario. You can tell by driving through our area who puts effort into caring and keeping their property clean, and who can’t.
There are elderly that can’t cope but won’t leave, and their grown ups kids have their own life to live.
My son is urging us to leave, to downsize.
So taking much into consideration, will do done serous thinking of putting place on market.
We have been here nearly 28 years.
I guess a sea change would be nice. Procrastination is us :roll
Our 2 biggest motivators for wanting to leave, getting old or injured or ill and unable to cope with property maintenance, and fire.
"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themsleves and wiser people so full of doubts" ~ Bertrand Russell
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Re: Bushfires: Australia Faces Mental Health Challenge

Postby HBS Guy » 09 Jan 2020, 18:05

A sea change will be nice.

I have given thought to my advancing age, fruit trees but can prune/train/spray/pick with feet firmly on ground, can give fruit/booze for help pruning etc. No real fire danger bar grass fire and embers, can cope with that. Nine metres above sea level OK.
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Re: Bushfires: Australia Faces Mental Health Challenge

Postby johnsmith » 09 Jan 2020, 18:49

better to get out while you can, with good memories, than to leave it until it's to late, with the property dilapidated because you're unable to maintain it.


A large area I travel to for work is acerages. You can see the ones that or to old or to lazy to maintain the property properly from a mile away.

Also this year a lot of the customers are commenting on the number of snakes they're seeing. I don't know how you can live in the bush and let it get to the stage where the snakes could be at your back door and you wouldn't know it. :OMG
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I hope that bitch who was running their brothels for them gets raped with a cactus.
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Re: Bushfires: Australia Faces Mental Health Challenge

Postby Squire » 09 Jan 2020, 22:03

HBS Guy wrote:Sucks, doesn’t it? You do the right thing yet others don’t and you pay more and have a higher risk. Why live in the bush if you can’t take the steps you need to live there safely?


I wonder how many people are under-insured which means that they might not be able to afford to rebuild.

Construction prices will be going up as well with the extra demand from rebuilding from fires.
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Re: Bushfires: Australia Faces Mental Health Challenge

Postby pinkeye » 09 Jan 2020, 22:34

johnsmith wrote:better to get out while you can, with good memories, than to leave it until it's to late, with the property dilapidated because you're unable to maintain it.


A large area I travel to for work is acerages. You can see the ones that or to old or to lazy to maintain the property properly from a mile away.

Also this year a lot of the customers are commenting on the number of snakes they're seeing. I don't know how you can live in the bush and let it get to the stage where the snakes could be at your back door and you wouldn't know it. :OMG


JS? Snakes are everywhere. OK long grass could have some... more likely under thick bushes or anywhere dark and hidden. Just stomp around heaps, and preferably be smelly, before you move in. They'll move away as long as you don't hassle them.

I am getting to the stage where my physical stamina isn't up to some of the work needed doing here. I manage . My neighbours, who are right pains in the arse might not agree, but imho , their place is no better than mine, and I 've lived here for 30 yrs.

There has been no fire bans here since 31 December, so I had a fire to burn-off the stuff I'd piled on my fireplace outside... so I could make room for all the stuff I got when my neighbours tree fell onto my land.. I got the whole top.

Work required. I'll have to get out my little ALDI battery-powered chainsaw. :roll
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Re: Bushfires: Australia Faces Mental Health Challenge

Postby Squire » 09 Jan 2020, 22:37

pinkeye wrote:
johnsmith wrote:better to get out while you can, with good memories, than to leave it until it's to late, with the property dilapidated because you're unable to maintain it.


A large area I travel to for work is acerages. You can see the ones that or to old or to lazy to maintain the property properly from a mile away.

Also this year a lot of the customers are commenting on the number of snakes they're seeing. I don't know how you can live in the bush and let it get to the stage where the snakes could be at your back door and you wouldn't know it. :OMG


JS? Snakes are everywhere. OK long grass could have some... more likely under thick bushes or anywhere dark and hidden. Just stomp around heaps, and preferably be smelly, before you move in. They'll move away as long as you don't hassle them.

I am getting to the stage where my physical stamina isn't up to some of the work needed doing here. I manage . My neighbours, who are right pains in the arse might not agree, but imho , their place is no better than mine, and I 've lived here for 30 yrs.

There has been no fire bans here since 31 December, so I had a fire to burn-off the stuff I'd piled on my fireplace outside... so I could make room for all the stuff I got when my neighbours tree fell onto my land.. I got the whole top.

Work required. I'll have to get out my little ALDI battery-powered chainsaw. :roll


Chainsaw massacre?
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Re: Bushfires: Australia Faces Mental Health Challenge

Postby pinkeye » 11 Jan 2020, 00:01

:bgrin

Not quite.. the massacree' has already happened.. I just want to keep some of the wood to burn for winter. They are getting lots of small stuff chucked back over the fence, that's for sure..
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Re: Bushfires: Australia Faces Mental Health Challenge

Postby Squire » 11 Jan 2020, 08:54

pinkeye wrote::bgrin

Not quite.. the massacree' has already happened.. I just want to keep some of the wood to burn for winter. They are getting lots of small stuff chucked back over the fence, that's for sure..


I once had a neighbor with a noxious tree that dropped sticky leaves on my property. The leaves clumped together and stuck to the dog whenever he walked through them.

I knocked on the neighbor's door and asked him to cut down his tree. He said "where I come from I would shoot people like you and then run over the body with my ute." He was a crusty old codger, a farmer with an investment house in the city.

Anyway, he did cut down his tree and did not shoot me or run over me with his ute.
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