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Recovering After Disaster

Monday 5 December 2016 12:32pm

After a disaster it can be hard to know what to do, how to rebuild, how to move forward. As a nation we’ve faced too many disasters lately. Earthquakes, floods, a tornado. Our tally of physical destruction increases by the day, the monetary costs are rising but what about the psychological costs?

These challenging events destabilise people’s lives and that kind of ongoing stress can trigger, or even create, mental health issues. Post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression are known to follow disasters, so while we work to rebuild homes and businesses it’s important we remember to care for ourselves and one another.

Strong social connections can make a huge difference in how people recover from these kinds of disasters. What we’ve learned from the Christchurch earthquakes, as well as from disasters in Australia, is that the more people connect with one another the better their chance of escaping psychological harm. The more connected the better. We need social support to spread throughout these communities, for every person to have multiple people to lean on, and for those people in turn to feel comfortable in leaning on one another.

This doesn’t just mean those directly impacted should band together, but that we all must. If you know someone personally affected then reach out to them, give them your support, listen to them. This is particularly important for those at greatest risk of being harmed by the event; those who are displaced, the elderly, and the very young are all much more likely to suffer the psychological effects of a disaster.

Now is a time to recover and rebuild, not just physically but emotionally. These disasters have knocked us off balance, they’ve taken away our security, and it will take a long time to get that back. We have to move forward now. It will be difficult, but safer and easier if we all do this together.


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