Record and repeated floods in NSW are putting the resilience of both communities and volunteers under pressure.
NSW Mental Health Commissioner Catherine Lourey says anxiety among people caught up in the latest floods will exacerbate the distress of those still mentally and physically recovering from repeated flood events during the past sixteen months.
‘As a community, we need to be acutely aware of the pressures people are currently under and reach out to friends, neighbours and families in flood impacted areas to offer support and comfort,’ said Ms Lourey.
‘There are many excellent professional services available for those feeling overwhelmed, but when telephone and internet connections are impacted and with an acknowledged shortage of GPs, the bonds of community are more important than ever as we seek support during these extraordinary times.
‘We know from our own work, and international research released earlier this year, that the more disasters a person has been through, the more likely they are to experience poor mental health,’ she said.
‘The consequences of these traumatic events can compact one on top of another, often multiplying emotional distress and anxiety,’ said Ms Lourey.
‘Now is the time to be especially vigilant in watching out for our friends, our loved ones and ourselves.’
She emphasised that this included volunteers. ‘As the scale and frequency of disasters increases, we know that our reliance on volunteers becomes increasingly unsustainable and they will increasingly need our support in return for the support they give us.’
Ms Lourey said the resilience of volunteers working with organisations such as the State Emergency Service (SES) and community groups providing support for those displaced from their homes is being severely tested.
‘We have seen many concerning scenes of homes and businesses inundated by flood waters just months after they experienced similar events,’ she said. ‘Some people have seen their homes and belongings inundated as many as four times during the past few years.’
Floods not over
Widespread floods have impacted more than 50,000 people during weeks, with significant evacuation and dislocation, disruption to services and widespread destruction of buildings and homes.
Twenty-three local government areas have been declared natural disaster zones, while rain continues to fall in many areas of NSW.
Any community members who are concerned about their own or a loved one’s mental health are encouraged to speak with trusted support services such as a family GP.
Alternatively, find local services via Wayahead’s NSW Mental Health Service Directory or call one of the following support lines:
- NSW Mental Health Line: 1800 011 511
- Lifeline: 13 11 14
- Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
- Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800
- Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636