It’s hard to believe that it has only been a year since the Black Summer bush fires devastated. While the damaging effects of the fires were hard to bear, the generosity and dedication of the many frontline workers made an indelible mark on the Australians.
Whether it was the Sikh community offering hot meals, Find a Bed’s grassroots initiative to help displaced people and animals find shelter, or the commitment of those who save wildlife to save our furry Australian icons, it was the everyday Australians who stepped in to help that will remain a memory.
Free mental health support is available for those who have generously supported our communities, either during recent bush fires or previous natural disasters. The Black Dog Institute knows that mental health problems can take years to emerge, and the institute’s support services are available to all rescue workers and their loved ones, regardless of when they helped the community.
A group of volunteers saw the devastating effects of fires on our wildlife on a daily basis. Caregivers at Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie were inundated with injured animals and cared for wounded animals months later.
Sue Ashton, President of Koala Hospital, speaks movingly about the hundreds of hours of care volunteers have given to animals injured by bushfires and the devastation that comes with the difficult decision to euthanize animals after months of care.
Ms. Ashton spoke about the work that continued during COVID-19, highlighting the difficulties faced by many rescue workers. “The restrictions on movement due to COVID-19 have left many of our senior volunteers isolated from their regular support network.” These changes placed additional stress on many rescue workers and adversely affected their mental health.
The delayed onset of mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD is one of the reasons the Black Dog Institute launched the Bush Fire Support Service – a new online mental health support service.
This free service is available across Australia to rescue workers and their loved ones who may be facing mental health problems.
Professor Sam Harvey, chief psychiatrist and associate director of the Black Dog Institute, specializes in research into the mental health of emergency workers and emphasizes that the nature of these roles can have a significant impact, with up to 1 in 10 frontline workers having symptoms of post-traumatic events Stress disorders with similar numbers with depression and anxiety.
“Frontline workers take care of us when we need them, and we must take care of them when their role has ramifications that negatively affect their mental health. In short, now is our turn to take care of them care. Without their mental wellbeing, where would we be? ” next fire season or when will the next natural disaster strike Australia? “says Professor Sam Harvey.
Appreciating the 2020 roller coaster ride, Professor Harvey says many rescue workers could feel the effects of cumulative adversity – where the drought, flood and COVID-19 impact of the bushfires add up.
He also stresses that while identifying the cause of mental health problems can be difficult, it is not necessary to access the Black Dog Institute’s new service.
“Bush’s firefighting funding enabled us to start this service. However, we are treating people with mental health problems that could have been caused by any number of natural disasters in Australia. Part of this service is to help you work out to help whether you need help or not, “he adds.
The Bush Fire Support Service offers rescue workers and their families up to twelve one-on-one psychological consultations with experts free of charge and is available across Australia via telehealth. This new service will be available to all first responders and their loved ones affected by natural disasters in Australia including, but not limited to:
- police officers
- Law enforcement officers
- First responder
- Recovery / Response Workers
- Fire and rescue workers
- Royal Life Saving Volunteers
- Game rescuer
- Ambulance officers
- Disaster / Post Disaster Relief Workers
- Search and rescue forces
- Volunteers from the state rescue service
- State fire brigade personnel
- Correctional officers
Please note that this is not an exclusive list. If you think you or your loved one may need assistance from the Bush Fire Support Service, please contact them for free consultation and if they can help you. With this new free service, rescuers like the caregivers at Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie can get support from leading specialists at the Black Dog Institute and ensure they have access to the mental health assistance they need.
The Bush Fire Support Service also offers people a variety of ways to access the service, including the resources available on their website to connect people to the support options that best suit their individual needs.
You can also book a consultation by calling Bush Fire Support Service at (02) 8627 3314 for a quick initial call. The clinic is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (AEST). After the initial assessment, any ongoing treatment can be carried out via online telemedicine. This means there are no call charges. This will ensure that free service and clinical mental health support are available to all Australian rescue workers and their families who may need assistance, regardless of their location.
To get a confidential and free review of your mental wellbeing and find out which support services best suit your needs, go to: