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Red Cross warns of psychological impact as full effect of Victorian bushfires becomes clearer

February 23, 2009
Red Cross warns of psychological impact as full effect of Victorian bushfires becomes clearer

At the Yarra Valley town of Lilydale today on day 17 of the Victorian bushfires an Elvis fire truck helicopter flew overhead and a local woman started to cry. I know they are heros, she said. But when I hear an Elvis I know we are in trouble.

As recovery efforts get underway in the areas hardest hit by the bushfires in Victoria, Red Cross is urging people to be aware of the longer term psychological and social impacts and to provide support to people around them affected by the disaster.

'Emergencies by their very nature are disruptive and can be extremely stressful' said Dr Rob Gordon, Consultant Psychologist to Red Cross. 'And situations like the Victorian bushfires, which have had such an enormous impact, will certainly have an effect on a large portion of the population.'

There are a range of emotions that people may be feeling after a major crisis, including shock and disbelief, numbness, fear, helplessness and anger or frustration. Many of these feelings will not be present immediately, and indeed some may take months or even years to be fully experienced.

'People should also remember to look after their physical state,' continued Dr Gordon. 'The health of the body as well as the mind can be directly affected by the event, with difficulty sleeping, muscular tension, weight gain or loss and inability to concentrate, common physical reactions.'

Red Cross has a number of resources to assist people affected by emergencies, including a booklet on how to cope with a major personal crisis, and podcasts discussing how to deal with the stress of an emergency and how to help out after one has occurred.

All these resources are available from the Red Cross website. www.redcross.org.au

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