Australia is currently experiencing unprecedented bushfires – which can impact a person’s mental health. That’s where Mental Health First Aid comes in. The smells, sights and sounds of bushfires can trigger traumatic reactions in people who might be vulnerable.
Signs of trauma
Following a bushfire or traumatic disaster, you may notice physical, emotional or behavioural changes in yourself (or someone you know) such as sleep or appetite problems; avoidance of reminders of the event; mood changes (crying easily, sadness and irritability); anxiety or fear; and isolation or withdrawal. This is all normal following a significant incident. These signs tend to subside or diminish in most people 3-4 weeks following the incident and you can get back to your routine.
Often traumatic reactions involve negative attributions or feeling towards yourself or the outside world. Catastrophising like “Things will always be dangerous if I live near the bush” or generalising like “Nothing I do can make me safe”, can make feelings of distress and sadness worse. It is important to challenge automatic thoughts and remind yourself that thoughts are different from feelings. Try and come up with an alternative and notice how other people might look at things.
Assisting a Person Affected by the Bushfire Crisis
Mental Health First Aid Australia published guidelines to assist those impacted by the bushfires. These guidelines are designed to help members of the public to provide mental health first aid to someone who is experiencing distress related to Australia’s bushfire crisis.
The role of a mental health first aider is to assist the person until appropriate professional help is received or the crisis resolves. A first aider cannot make a diagnosis of mental illness or provide therapy.
A reminder to practise self-care; it will take a long time for the community to recover from this event and to be able to help you need to keep yourself well. MHFA guidelines
Interested in participating in a Mental Health First Aid Course, we recommend connecting with Wellbeing Campus