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Bushfire mental health support

15 Jul 2020


Two specialist mental health clinician roles have commenced in our District to support communities who have been affected by bushfire.

Bushfire Trauma Recovery Specialists, Beaver Hudson and Vanessa Brunker are delivering outreach support in the Lithgow, Upper Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury regions. Their work includes facilitating access to mental health support services, developing a network of support for communities and helping to rebuild the lives of people affected by last summer’s bushfires.   

“The impacts of bushfires are far-reaching. People in these communities are experiencing normal responses to natural disaster. Our roles are about providing guidance and support on rebuilding lives and that’s about calling on the strengths and resources within families and communities as well as within the supporting agencies,” says Beaver.

“We are an outreach service and we’re very mobile. While we will be meeting and supporting people at community venues, we will come to see people, they don’t have to come to us.”

Both are acutely aware of the potential impacts on these communities as another bushfire season approaches.

Vanessa says, “Many people may be experiencing a form of post-traumatic stress disorder in relation to the fires. As it starts to warm up, different things may start to trigger people. Hazard reduction burning, seeing the landscape in the local area or hearing news stories; everything’s a constant reminder for these people,” says Vanessa.

“Beaver and I both have a lived experience of the bushfires which is very valuable when working with these communities. I’m really excited to give back to the community and help rebuild their lives. It will be challenging but it’s going to be so rewarding.”

Beaver adds, “For me, I’m looking forward to being part of the emergence of mental health as an integral part of community life. It feels great to be part of a big network of people all trying to help these individuals and communities.”

People affected by bushfires in the Lithgow, Upper Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury regions can access the Bushfire Trauma Recovery Specialists through the Mental Health Line (1800 011 511), via their local Council or by making contact through other agencies involved in the bushfire recovery.

The team are looking at how they can also help the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.