2019-20 Bushfires

The 2019-2020 bushfires have been devastating for many Australians. The sheer scale, strength and unpredictability of the fires has been extremely distressing. It is natural for feelings to become intense and unpredictable following a traumatic event (e.g., shock, grief, anger, anxiety, guilt), thought patterns are also often affected (e.g., repetitive memories of evacuating or the fire approaching, difficulty concentrating, frequent worries). Relationships may become strained, especially if you are in temporary housing and in close proximity with others. Any physical or existing medical conditions may also appear to worsen due to increased stress. There are many ways people will naturally respond to the devastating bushfires and there are a number of things you can do to improve your emotional well-being if you feel you would benefit from some extra support.


People affected by the 2019-20 bushfires can now access mental health treatment without a GP referral or mental health treatment plan. The Government has introduced the ‘Bushfire Recovery Access Initiative’ where people affected by the bushfires are eligible to receive Medicare rebates for up to 10 psychological therapy sessions per calendar year until 31 December 2021.

People presenting for bushfire services do not need to be referred by a GP or to be diagnosed as having a mental health disorder. An eligible client is anyone who has had an adverse change in their mental health as a result of a bushfire which occurred in the 2019-20 financial year. This includes emergency services workers who have been affected by the bushfires.

Sessions can be offered face-to-face or by video conference for those living in a rural or remote area.

People who access the 10 ‘Bushfire Recovery Access’ psychological therapy sessions may also access the 10 ‘Better Access’ psychological therapy sessions if they meet eligibility criteria for that initiative. For more details regarding the ‘Better Access’ initiative please click here.

To discuss how attending therapy sessions with Dr Lynsey Byrom either face-to-face or online may be of benefit to you please make contact via the contact form or call 1800 858 179. Alternatively you can book online now via the online booking portal.

Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue has listed below some common and uncommon reactions following a traumatic event, however please note this is general information and please reach out to your GP or a mental health professional to discuss your own individual concerns. For more information from Beyond Blue please click here.

Common reactions

These reactions can be severe and are at their worst in the first week after the event, however, in most cases, they fade over a month. If your day-to-day functioning is seriously affected for more than one month after the event, it’s important to discuss it with a GP or mental health professional. These reactions include:

  • feeling overwhelmed
  • feeling numb and detached
  • inability to focus
  • inability to plan ahead
  • constant tearfulness
  • intrusive memories or bad dreams related to the bushfires
  • sleep disturbances
  • constant questioning – “What if I had done x, y or z, instead?”
  • ‘replaying’ the event and inventing different outcomes in order to be prepared should it happen again.

It is also important to understand that a friend, loved one or work colleague may see these reactions in you, often when you do not. They may see you are detached, unfocused, anxious, or tearful without provocation. Listen to the opinions of those you trust. It is a sign of respect to friends and family to act on their advice and discuss these issues with a GP or mental health professional.

Beyond a common reaction

If you experience any of these symptoms at any time, seek help from a GP or mental health professional:

  • a sense that your emotional and/or physical reactions are not normal
  • thoughts of self-harm or of ending your life
  • loss of hope or interest in the future
  • avoiding things that bring back memories of what happened to the point where you’re unable to carry out day-to-day tasks
  • frequently being easily startled e.g. jumping when a door slams, and then taking a long time to calm down
  • feeling overwhelming fear for no obvious reason
  • panic attack symptoms: increased heart rate, breathlessness, shakiness, dizziness and a sudden urge to go to the toilet
  • excessive guilt about things that were or weren’t said and done.

Australian Psychological Society (APS)

The Australian Psychological Society (APS) has compiled a range of information sheets to help people prepare and recover from the threat of bushfire. For more information please refer to the APS website or click on the links below to read the information sheets.

Australian Red Cross

The Australian Red Cross has created an information sheet to assist those who have been evacuated from their homes outlining emotional and practical things to consider when returning. Please click here for more information.

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