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After the Fires

Catastrophic bush fires often devastate townships and large areas of Australia and lead to significant loss of property and, sadly, the loss of lives. Many people lose their livelihoods, their cherished family homes, and their communities. These losses can include:


  • Loss of homes

  • Loss of livestock

  • Loss of prized family heirlooms

  • Loss of businesses

  • Loss of bushlands and wildlife

After the initial shock and disbelief over the ferocity and magnitude of the bushfires, many people experience a profound sense of sadness and helplessness. As time passes, the implications of these losses can become more apparent and their impacts may preoccupy peoples’ minds so that it becomes difficult to focus on moving forward. These worries may centre around:


  • Loss of friendships and support networks

  • Loss of daily routine and a way of life

  • Fears of financial instability and poverty

  • Fears of becoming homeless


But there are also other psychological impacts which can begin to manifest as time passes. These can also affect people in such a way that they are unable to carry out their usual activities. These psychological impacts can include:


  • Feeling ‘on edge’

  • Experiencing panic attacks

  • Experiencing disturbed sleep

  • Feeling down or depressed

  • Fearing for the safety of loved ones

  • Feeling angry, irritable or hurt

  • Feeling overwhelmed

  • Feeling a loss of self-esteem and self-confidence

Although these reactions can be considered understandable in response to major disaster, it is still important that people seek professional assistance if these problems persist or cause significant disruption to their lives.


These psychological problems may not only affect people who have actually gone through bushfires but also those who have witnessed them or been indirectly exposed to them through the media, or through the experiences of family and friends. For some, the bushfires may bring out or make worse past issues or symptoms, for example, in those who have had previous traumas  – and those people may need special assistance.


Addressing these problems means seeking professional help through your general practitioner as a first step, and possibly seeing a mental health professional who can help you successfully address those feelings and move forward in a positive way. Please contact us if you would like to find how we can help you get through this difficult time.


© 2020 EastCoast Psychology and Psychiatry

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