Message from Suzanne Leckie, Psychologist, Wellbeing Programs
Many of our people are still heavily committed on the frontline fighting long-running bushfires or in support roles such as in incident control centres, logistics, peer support and many others.
This extended period of activity is having an impact on our people and their families.
Photo by Korumburra Fire Brigade, February 2020
Our Wellbeing team has recently noticed an increase in the number of people wanting wellbeing support. This is usually what happens after a major event, when people return home and try to establish their normal routine once again.
Everyone with a role at CFA can be impacted by incidents, not just those on the frontline, and this is the time we need to look after ourselves physically and psychologically.
During and after disasters like this, especially when they last for a long time, it’s normal to experience a range of different emotional, physical and psychological reactions.
You may notice feelings of fear, anxiety, anger, guilt, sadness or grief. For many people these feelings can affect your body in a variety of ways. You may feel exhausted, tense, agitated, nauseous or forgetful. You may lose your appetite and have nightmares or headaches.
You may be surprised by how you feel, how you react or what feels triggering for you. We all react differently, and the reactions may be unexpected or delayed, so it’s important not to compare your reactions to others.
No matter how you react it’s important to acknowledge and normalise these feelings rather than ignoring them. Ignoring how you feel or refusing to accept the feelings is likely to delay your recovery.
Speaking to someone as soon as possible about how you feel will allow you to come to terms with the experience bit by bit.
I encourage all our CFA people and their immediate families who’ve been affected directly or indirectly by the bushfires to get support and tell your story when you are ready.
You may want to tell a friend or family member. Or you can contact a peer, chaplain, psychologist or counsellor through the Wellbeing Support Line on 1800 959 232.
CFA’s Wellbeing team has put together a page on Members Online to provide resources and key information around bushfire support for CFA members. I would encourage you to have a look through this.
In addition to our range of services, the Wellbeing team supports a number of events across the year to raise awareness of mental health.
Walking Off The War Within is our key event and there’s still time for you to get involved. Join us in Ballarat on Saturday 29 February to walk for mental health awareness. You can also join events in Mildura and Warrnambool. Find out more
Please remember that it’s OK to be not OK. Recovery is going to take time, but we’ve shown in the past that our organisation can pull together and support one another.
Let’s continue to have these important conversations.
If at any time you are worried about your psychological wellbeing or the wellbeing of someone you know, there is always help available through:
- Your GP
- A mental health specialist such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, counsellor or social worker.
- CFA Wellbeing Support Line - 1800 959 232
- Lifeline - 13 11 14
- Grief Line - 1300 845 745
- Beyond Blue - 1300 224 636
- The Australia Centre for Post-Traumatic Mental Health - (03) 9035 5599
Author: Suzanne Leckie Psychologist, Wellbeing Programs