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Getting mentally prepared for bushfires

Bushfires may bring up feelings of anxiety, especially people who have been through it before or have a pre-existing mental health issue.

Preparing for a bushfire isn’t only about getting your house or property ready. Preparing yourself emotionally is also important.

Make a ​​bushfire survival plan

Preparing a bushfire plan will help reduce the uncertainty and anxiety for you and your family. Use the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) My Fire Plan to make your own plan online. It can take as little as five minutes. You can also use the Red Cross’ Rediplan template.

 If you have a pre-existing mental health issue, you’re at higher risk of distress but knowing what to expect can make it easier to work on recovering. Read SANE’s Managing pre-existing mental health issues during disaster and recovery.

Make a mental h​​​​ealth plan

 Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What are the usual signs that things are getting too much for you (see Lifeline’s common signs)?
  2. What are the things that help you to relax or feel better (reading, listening to music, writing)?
  3. Who can you call for support if you need to talk (family member, friend, a helpline)?

Looking after yourself during and after a bushfire

It is completely normal to experience a range of emotions if you are directly or indirectly affected by bushfires. These may happen immediately, but sometimes much later, and may affect sleep, mood, anxiety and daily routines.

Looking after your mental health is more important than ever right now.

There are small things you can do to regain some control and cope during this tough time:

  • Connect with others: Spend time with friends and family and talk to them about how you’re feeling. Staying connected can make a big difference.
    Check in with others who might need extra support right now too. This includes elderly or isolated people, or people with a pre-existing mental illness, with a history of trauma or who are experiencing a recent bereavement.
  • Try to stick to a routine: Going to bed at the same time every day, planning meals and giving your day structure can keep you grounded. The most important thing is to not push yourself or rush into it.
  • Focus on eating and sleeping well: And move your body if you can. Looking after your body can improve your mental health.
  • Do things that help you relax: While doing things you enjoy can be hard to prioritise during a time like this, self-care is key. As much as you can, do the little things that make you feel good, like reading or listening to music.
  • Accept help when it’s offered: There is no shame in needing and accepting help and support.
  • Limit the amount of media coverage: Take breaks or stick to one trusted source. This includes social media.

Get professional support or advice

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call Triple Zero (000). Professional help is available and only a phone call away. You can call:

Support on the ground

Disaster Recovery Clinicians are located in local health districts across NSW and are on the ground to provide support at recovery centres and in the community to ensure people are linked to mental health and practical support as quickly as possible.

Farm Gate Counsellors and Rural Peer Support Workers are located in local health districts across rural and regional NSW. These positions provide outreach support and coordination with local services and communities.

If anyone needs a referral to a specialist mental health service including the Disaster Recovery Clinicians and Farm Gate Counsellors, they should call the NSW Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511.

The Rural Adversity Mental Health Program (RAMHP) helps educate and connect people in rural areas with mental health support through projects, local and national partnerships, health information, tailored advice, workshops and short courses. 20 RAMHP Coordinators are located in local health districts across remote, rural and regional NSW. RAMHP Coordinators do not provide crisis support. To contact your local RAMHP Coordinator visit the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program (RAMHP)website and type in your postcode.

Support for Aboriginal people

 If you need to talk to someone you can:

Finding new ways of connecting to culture, spending time with others and keeping a routine are some deadly tips to focus on your mental health and wellbeing during the bushfire season. You can find these tips in Deadly way​s to look after yourself this bushfire season by the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council (AH&MRC). Further information and resources available at Well Mob.​

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Current as at: Thursday 14 December 2023
Contact page owner: Mental Health