Grace is a resident of Long Beach, Batemans Bay and has a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, post-natal depression and anxiety. She was hypervigilant during the bushfires and was heartbroken to see the home where she had grown up destroyed.
She found the strategies she used to manage her mental health were no longer working, her head was not clear and she felt like she was out of control.
“It’s hard when you suffer from anxiety as it is. And then when you are faced with the fear and devastation that the bushfires bring it’s even harder,” said Grace.
“I think what we go through makes us bigger stronger people. I’m hopeful that by sharing collective experiences through Life After Bushfires we can learn from and understand what people have been through, and what they may still be experiencing.”
Life After Bushfires, a new digital mental health resource, includes real stories from local residents with complex mental health issues* who experienced the bushfires, and provides information, tailored support services and connection for anyone impacted by the natural disaster.
SANE CEO Jack Heath says in the immediate aftermath of traumatic events like the recent bushfires, primary needs such as housing and physical health are an immediate priority and mental health can often be overlooked.
“The mental health impacts of traumatic events like the bushfire crisis can be huge, and long lasting. For people with a history of trauma or a complex mental health issue, this is particularly important. These people can be incredibly resilient in times of crisis, and often step in to help others in need, but after the worst is over, the delayed impact on them can be significant,” said Mr Heath.
“Recovery is a process, a long process that is not linear. As people continue to repair and rebuild after the traumatic Black Summer bushfires, the time is right to invest in mental health and wellbeing, particularly for those living with a complex mental health diagnosis such as schizophrenia, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).”
“Among the recommendations recently released from the Bushfire Royal Commission is the need to prioritise mental health support during and after natural disasters. This project aligns with the identified need for greater planning for the delivery of long-term, locally-based and appropriate mental health services.”
“We encourage local residents to access the Life After Bushfires resource to find tools and support to aid recovery, connect with others to understand you are not alone and find different self-care strategies to work through the traumatic events of the Black Summer bushfires.”
Life After Bushfires includes a number of resources for people who have been impacted by the bushfires including:
- A sense of connection and shared experience via video stories from local people with complex mental health issues who were affected by the bushfires.
- A dedicated Life After Bushfires section on the SANE Forums for people to connect with others and share experiences in a safe and moderated space. The SANE Forums are anonymous and are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- A new Life After Bushfires section section on the SANE website providing information on services and supports to assist recovery, practical advice on self-care and the importance of looking after yourself.
- Individual counselling services accessible via phone, email or webchat, Mon-Fri 10am-10pm.
Life After Bushfires has been developed entirely with funds received from SANE philanthropic supporters who gave generously to specifically support people living with complex mental health issues who were impacted by the Black Summer bushfires. No government funding has contributed to the resource.
Visit sane.org/lifeafterbushfires for more information search Life After Bushfires. #LifeAfterBushfires #SANESupport
The following people are available for interview:
- Jack Heath, SANE Chief Executive Officer
- Sophie Potter, SANE Director of Support Services
- Grace, Lived Experience, Long Beach
- Butch, Lived Experience Advocate, Moss Vale & Batemans Bay
To request an interview please contact Senior Media & PR Advisor Bianca Lapins
Images of Grace and Butch can be found here.
*Complex mental health illness includes the following diagnoses:
- Schizophrenia spectrum disorders (such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder or schizophreniform disorder)
- Bipolar and related disorders
- Personality disorders (such as, but not limited to, borderline personality disorder)
- Obsessive-compulsive and related disorders (such as OCD, body-dysmorphic disorder, excoriation disorder, trichotillomania or hoarding disorder)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Dissociative disorders
- Eating disorders (such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, and binge-eating disorder)
- Severe and “treatment-resistant”depression and anxiety leading to a significant impairment in functioning.
ABOUT LIFE AFTER BUSHFIRES
Life After Bushfires is a new digital mental health resource developed to support people with complex mental health issues (CMHI) who have been affected by bushfires by providing information, services and connection to support their recovery. The resource features a Forum enabling online peer-to-peer connection for people with CMHI who experienced the bushfires, counselling services via phone/email/chat, a sense of connection and shared experience through real life stories of people with CMHI affected by the fires, and factsheets and guides to provide tools and information.
SANE is a national mental health charity dedicated to making a real difference in the lives of people affected by complex mental health issues through support, research and advocacy. We work to support the more than four million Australians affected by complex mental health issues including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, complex trauma and severe depression and anxiety. SANE’s vision is for an Australia where people affected by complex mental health issues live long and fulfilling lives, free from stigma and discrimination.