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The effects of bushfires on those living with complex mental health issues

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The constant smoke haze and news reports serve as a reminder of the bushfires that still burn across Australia. Exposure to details and graphic images relating to the fires can be extremely distressing and can have a negative affect on our mental health.

The effects of such devastating events can be even more profound for vulnerable people within our communities, such as those living with complex mental health issues. People living with a mental health issue may find their symptoms return or become more intense during this time. For example, someone living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) might find that graphic images trigger flashbacks to their own trauma.

When maintaining a state of wellbeing may already be a daily challenge, exposure to upsetting details of what is happening around the country can make this even more difficult.

More self-care than usual may be required in order to cope with everyday life.

If you're feeling impacted by the bushfire crisis, it might help to regain a sense of control, try to connect with others, and find comfort within your day.

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The mental health impacts of Australia's bushfire crisis

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For people with a history of trauma, the world can feel like an unsafe place. As bushfires burn across Australia, these feelings can intensify.The mental health impacts of traumatic events like the bushfire crisis can be huge, and long lasting. For people on the front lines, fighting fires or fleeing their homes, the danger is real and visceral. But for those further removed geographically from the fires, breathing smokey air and reading harrowing media reports can also be extremely distressing and triggering.

Everyone in Australia needs mental health support during this difficult time, and we've already seen many heartwarming examples of people looking out for each other, in the spirit of mateship.

But we must also remember that the impacts of this crisis will ripple out far beyond this moment. We need robust mental health support to be available not just during an emergency, but also well into the future.

For people with a history of trauma or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), 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.

SANE Australia is committed to supporting people navigate the lasting impacts of the bushfire crisis and other traumatic events. 

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What is post-traumatic growth?

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In your search for happiness and peace of mind, would you value closer relationships with friends and family, more appreciation for life and a greater sense of your own strength?

You would, right?

But what if you were told the price for this growth, this peace of mind, is a traumatic event? Something so shocking and painful you will be profoundly changed.

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Coping with flashbacks

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Remembering the past is important. It defines who we are. But sometimes the process of storing an experience as a memory can go awry.

These memory disturbances can present later in life where the event is relived in the form of a flashback.

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Three myths about trauma

Three myths about trauma

Traumatic events profoundly shock and overwhelm us. We can be exposed to trauma through deliberate harm, by natural disaster or accident, or by witnessing harm to others. It could be a single, vivid event or a pattern of violence, like childhood or domestic abuse. It can happen in public, at work or at home, where we expect to feel safe.

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Tips for coping with the effects of trauma

Tips for coping with the effects of trauma

Trauma can be caused by a range of events such as war, terrorism, natural disasters, transport accidents, criminal and domestic violence and childhood abuse and neglect. Being exposed to these events can have lasting physiological and psychological effects.

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