Encouraged to seek support

Irritability, nervousness and depression are expected to be felt by some Latrobe Valley residents in the coming weeks, as the weather warms up and the community is reminded of the region’s major bushfire events.

Emergency recovery psychologist Dr Rob Gordon says the anniversary of bushfires will “continue to stir people’s feelings for quite some time”.

“It might not just be the anniversary, but the same weather pattern, the same sensory feeling in the air (that triggers a reaction),” Dr Gordon said.

“Often people will say they are beginning to feel apprehensive, irritable, nervous, depressed, or sad, before they recognise where it’s coming from.”

Dr Gordon said people should understand that these feelings will occur in some way.

“There are two possibilities. One is it leads to all the bad feelings coming back and upsetting us all again, or we can take hold of it in a more active way and say ‘how would I like to mark the anniversary of how my life changed on that day?’

“Get options and choose the one that will give you a capacity to give external expression for the way you feel.”

Dr Gordon encouraged those struggling, to surround themselves with supportive friends over the summer and plan pleasant recreational activities.

“Create nice experiences for themselves, don’t hang around and wait for what’s going to happen,” he said.

Dr Gordon said it would take a long time for bushfire-affected communities to be able to relax during warmer weather.

“As soon as our anxiety goes up, our brains become selectively biased for bad news, for threat, danger, difficulty and we will ignore all of the things that bring us reassurance, confidence.

“Typically you’ll go through a bad day and think ‘phew, we survived that, we were lucky’.

“We need to say (we survived that because) the whole system worked.

“It’s important for people to stop and think about how are we better prepared? How are we more careful?”

If you are struggling to cope, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.