Ten years ago, Victorians lived through the worst heatwave and bushfires in Australia’s history. Tragically, 173 people lost their lives in the fires, and 374 more died in the heatwave. Many others were injured, or lost their homes or livelihoods.
Around the anniversary on 7 February, people may have different emotional, physical and mental reactions.
Everyone’s recovery journey is different, and for many it is still going.
The heat and hot winds of our current summer might cause anxiety, particularly for people in bushfire prone places. If you know someone who was affected by the bushfires in 2009 please check they’re doing okay.
Professional support is available too. The Victorian Government has arranged extra health and mental health services for affected communities. These include outreach services, mental health, alcohol and other drug services, counselling services, community engagement activities and GP locums.
The Government is using trusted local providers to deliver these services, so people feel more comfortable and the support is tailored to local needs.
The usual catchment boundaries for some mental health services have been relaxed so people can go to other hospitals between now and March 2019.
Community Assessment and Treatment Teams will also be on hand to support local community services and clinicians.
People wishing to access these services should speak with their local doctor or visit Victoria’s official bushfire anniversary website.
Staff in community organisations in areas the fires touched may also have been personally affected by the bushfires. Many lost loved ones, lost property, were injured or displaced, and/or did the emotionally wrenching work of supporting their community members during and after the fires. These staff members may experience difficult emotional, physical and mental reactions and may need extra support in the lead-up to the anniversary.
Please, remember to look after yourself also. Help is available through:
- Your regular doctor
- A mental health specialist, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker, with experience in treatment of PTSD if required
- Phoenix Australia – (03) 9035 5599
- Lifeline – 13 11 14
- GriefLine – 1300 845 745
- BeyondBlue – 1300 224 636
Staff from the Red Cross and the Victorian Council of Churches will also be providing ‘psychosocial first aid’ at the estimated 600 commemorative events being held across the state during February.
Please look after yourself, and your mates, as we commemorate Black Saturday.