Support for bushfires anniversary

Eastern Health is offering free counselling to support people through the 10th anniversary of Black Saturday.

Community health manager Michelle Fleming said it could be difficult to believe the devastating bushfires happened 10 years ago.

“Yet for many people the impacts are still present in everyday life,” she said.

“It is common for people after a traumatic event to feel the need or pressure to ‘move on’, ‘start over’, ‘move forward’ and yet what we know that traumatic events can have a long-term impact on our health, mental health and emotional wellbeing.”

Ms Fleming said anniversary dates in particular would be overwhelming and produce strong emotional responses that could be confusing and unpleasant.

“The months leading up to the date of the event in which the trauma occurred can produce a decline in normal functioning and an increase in PTSD symptoms,” she said.

“Strong emotions can be triggered consciously or unconsciously by our senses, sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touch.

“Much of this is unconscious and can be difficult to understand.”

She said post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms could include: physical pain like headaches, chest pain, dizziness, fatigue, stomach and digestive issues; nightmares or flashbacks; depression and/or anxiety; withdrawal from family and friends and no longer being interested in activities previously enjoyed; avoidance of any situations that might remind a person of the situation or event; finding distractions so as not to think about the event; numbing by exiting social circles, using distraction, alcohol or other drugs, over or under eating, or watching too much TV; experiencing anxiety and difficulty relaxing and sleeping, being on edge, jumpy or easily frightened; and irritability.

“Healesville Hospital and Yarra Valley Health offer a free counselling service with qualified and experienced counsellors to support you as the anniversary of Black Saturday approaches,” Ms Fleming said.

Call 1300 130 381 for an appointment.

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