Coping after a traumatic event

Guide to assist bushfire victims with coping after a traumatic event

Jan 08, 2020

Ramsay Health Care has released a guide to coping after a traumatic event to help assist communities affected by the devastating bushfires.

Traumatic stress can produce overwhelming and unsettling emotions, leaving some people in a state of shock and distress.

Physical signs and symptoms include rapid breathing, racing heart, trembling or shaking, cold sweats, headaches, nausea, feeling choked up, stomach churning, feeling faint or dizzy and tense or aching muscles.

Ramsay’s Mental Health Service Line Director, Dominique Robert-Hendren, said there are a number of strategies Australians can use to help people who have been affected by the devastating fires.

“It can be helpful just to show up and to be present with someone. Have no expectations. Let the person know you are here for them and ask them how you can help,” Ms Robert-Hendren said.

“Another way to offer practical support is to assist with chores, cooking, cleaning, and making doctors’ appointments and alternative accommodation arrangements.”

“You can also offer a listening ear as they may find it helpful to talk about what happened. Don't pressure them - let them take things at their own pace. Let the person know that it is okay if they don't want to talk about what happened. You don’t have to say too much.”

Ms Robert-Hendren said other tips include:

  • Make eye contact with the person speaking to you.
  • Let them speak freely without interrupting.
  • Ask questions to make sure you understand them.
  • Do not judge or give uninvited opinions.
  • Don't tell them what they should be thinking or how they should be feeling.
  • Listen and respect their wishes and offer to check in again.

For people directly affected by the bushfires, Ms Robert-Hendren said some helpful strategies include:

  • Establishing physical, emotional, and psychological safety
  • Connecting to your support network including family and friends
  • Accepting support from the broader community and professional networks
  • Attending to your basic needs like food, clothing, and shelter
  • Reaching out to others and ask for help

For more information, please contact the Ramsay Health Care news desk.