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April 2010

  1. Welcome
  2. APS Events
  3. APS media releases
  4. New APS brochure – Preparing children for the threat of bushfire
  5. News and resources from other disaster and trauma related organisations
  6. Contact us


Dear {Name},

Welcome to our inaugural edition of DRN News, the quarterly update for members of the APS Disaster Response Network for 2010. 

In this newsletter we plan to bring you information about recent or forthcoming events, updates of new resources in the field, and training opportunities, as well as links to recent information and articles that have been written about best practice in disaster preparedness, response or recovery. 

In this edition we report on a psychological first aid roundtable that the APS co-hosted with the Red Cross, as part of a new and ongoing collaboration between these two organisations. We include links to APS media releases on psychological preparedness and dealing with anniversaries, and are pleased to announce a new brochure on helping children to prepare for the threat of a bushfire. You can read about additional resources developed by the Australian Child and Adolescent Trauma, Loss and Grief Network (ACATLGN), and follow links to news and training information from the Red Cross and the Australian Centre for Post-Traumatic Health. 

If you have useful information that you would like us to include in DRN News, please send it to drn@psychology.org.au.

APS events

Psychological First Aid Roundtable

On 15th December, 2009, the APS and Red Cross hosted a roundtable of experts discussing the definition and operationalisation of psychological first aid. The purpose of the roundtable was to:

  • Bring together the disaster experts in Australia who are using, training, researching or writing about psychological first aid (PFA) or personal support
  • Share the many definitions and operationalisations of PFA and Personal Support  that are currently being used
  • Identify the common or core elements of PFA and personal support
  • Develop consensus for understanding and communicating about PFA and personal support
  • Discuss training needs for the provision of PFA and personal support
  • Explore the potential for working collaboratively and across agencies

PFA is a concept that has gained increasing popularity and common usage around the world over the past few years as an initial response following disasters and emergencies. As with many new, popular and quickly-adopted concepts, its very popularity and widespread usage, also means that it enjoys  multiple  definitions and operationalisations, which in the end causes some confusion and uncertainty.  By bringing together Australian disaster experts from the Red Cross, psychology, psychiatry, and government, we were able to make a start at clarifying the language, tidying up the ideas, and agreeing on some shared definitions and operationalisations of psychological first aid. 

Roundtable definitions – what we agreed on

Following a disaster or an emergency, people are likely to experience a range of distressing reactions like confusion, shock, grief, hopelessness, helplessness, shame, anxiety, and loss of confidence. The contacts we make with people in this acute phase can help to reduce their initial distress and pain, and set them up to be able to activate their own natural recovery.  The key elements of PFA are based around basic common principles of support – promote safety and security, calm, connectedness, self-efficacy, help, and hope.  These core components have been drawn from the literature on risk and resilience, research, field experience, expert consensus, and from key sources in the disaster literature. 
The use of the term first aid is also meaningful.  PFA is best understood as the first thing to do, or to try, as a way of supporting someone following a disaster or emergency.  It is a term geared towards an immediate response.  In the majority of cases, PFA is useful immediately following a disaster, in the hours, days and weeks after an event, but it could also be useful as a first response or contact for people some months down the track.  The Red Cross, for example, uses personal support volunteers to deliver PFA immediately following an emergency,  but are also beginning to deliver PFA as an outreach program several months later, by visiting people’s homes, checking on how they are going, making connections, and providing information. 

The roundtable concluded with a decision to collaborate on a brief Australian manual of PFA, to be endorsed by multiple organisations working in disaster preparedness and response throughout Australia.  The purpose of this manual is to orient people working in disaster preparedness, response and recovery to current best-practice in psychological first aid in the Australian context, and will include information on its aims, core components, when, where and who it is for, and who can deliver it.  Importantly, the manual will also include information on what PFA is not – It is not debriefing, not diagnosing, not treatment, and not counselling.

We will update DRN members on the development of the PFA manual in subsequent editions of DRN News. 

Memorandum of Understanding signed between the APS and Red Cross

‘Psychologists and Red Cross join forces to improve disaster services for Australians’
On 15 December2009, The Australian Psychological Society and Red Cross signed a Memorandum of Understanding which will link the two organisations and lead to the improved delivery of emergency services for Australians.  Professor Bob Montgomery and Robert Tickner, CEO of the Australian Red Cross, signed the MOU and spoke about the importance of this agreement for both organisations and for the community.
Talks have begun with the Red Cross about how to operationalise the MOU and begin planning ways in which we can facilitate training for Red Cross volunteers and APS psychologists, facilitate the provision of on-site support by APS psychologists for Red Cross volunteers and staff and the community, and further develop community education resources. 

Disaster Preparedness and Response Reference Group 2010

The APS has a Disaster Preparedness and Response reference group which plays a key role in the governance of the Society by providing advice to the Board from Members of the Society and others, and by being an important element of the Society’s ongoing communication with its membership.

The specific aims of the DPRRG are to identify current and best practice methods and models of psychological preparedness for, and responses to, disasters, to devise strategies for including the APS in key National, State and Regional Disaster Response protocols, raise awareness of the potential role psychologists can play in disaster preparedness and response.

Two new members have been added to the APS disaster preparedness and response reference group for 2010. We are pleased to welcome Professor Mark Creamer and Monika Naslund to the group.  The reference group assists the APS in identifying the current and best practice methods and models of psychological preparedness for, and responses to, disasters.

APS media releases

5 February, 2010
Psychologists provide tips for coping with the Black Saturday anniversary 
On the anniversary of the Black Saturday bushfires, psychologists are advising the community to anticipate their reactions and plan their weekend to help cope with this significant event.   

16 December, 2009
Psychologists and Red Cross join forces to improve disaster services for Australians
The Australian Psychological Society and Red Cross today signed a Memorandum of Understanding which will link the two organisations and lead to the improved delivery of emergency services for Australians.  

28 October, 2009
Preparing psychologically for bushfires: Resources for the public  
Experts from the Australian Psychological Society (APS) have stressed that psychological preparedness is a vital component of being prepared for any disaster such as a bushfire.

New APS brochure – Preparing children for the threat of bushfire

The APS, in collaboration with the Australian Child and Adolescent Trauma, Loss and Grief Network (ACATLGN), have developed a new brochure aimed at helping to prepare children for the threat of bushfires. 

Disasters such as bushfires can be frightening for anyone, but can be particularly frightening for children. As families prepare for the bushfire season, it is important to protect children from becoming too frightened or anxious, even though many of their fears may be real.

This brochure provides ways of assisting parents and carers to help children manage their fears and to have a greater sense of being in control so that they are not overwhelmed in threatening bushfire situations.  

The three-fold brochure contains tips for helping children like:

  • Involving them in physical preparations
  • Preparing yourself psychologically so that you feel more in control, and then teaching your children the same skills
  • Listening to children’s concerns and fears and correcting any thoughts or ideas that are exaggerated or inaccurate
  • Remaining positive and reassuring, saying things like “Remember the plan we have and the things we can do to help us all to keep safe if a bushfire comes”.
  • Planning ways of protecting children during a disaster, including removing them from possible exposure to traumatic experiences as the best protection from any potential long term harmful effects.

A PDF of the brochure can be downloaded from the APS website at www.psychology.org.au/bushfires/preparation, together with the other APS preparedness brochure (Don’t panic, be prepared) and tip sheet (Psychological preparation for natural disasters). If you would like multiple copies of the brochures, you can order them from the APS (priced at cost recovery only), via m.weissner@psychology.org.au.

News and resources from other disaster and trauma related organisations

Australian Child and Adolescent Trauma, Loss and Grief Network (ACATLGN)

The ACATLGN network aims to promote understanding of child and adolescent trauma, loss and grief. It offers key resources to help people involved with, or who have responsibility for, children and adolescents and those who are interested in the impact of psychological trauma, loss and other adversities as they affect young people. It also provides an online forum for communication and sharing of information and expertise among professionals and community workers; as well as people involved in research, policy, education and training and other interested members of the community.

ACATLGN has a hub for disasters and mass adversities. The hub can be accessed at www.earlytraumagrief.anu.edu.au/resource_hubs/disasters_children/. On this hub, the following resources are available, as well as links to multiple other useful sources:

  • Bushfire and flood resources
  • Preparedness resources
  • Information for families
  • Information for schools
  • Schools & Victorian Bushfires
  • Disasters and the media
  • Psychological First Aid

On the ACATLGN website you will find resources for Children's Futures: Positive Strategies for Bushfire Recovery. These are for use by principals, teachers, school support staff, parents and others working in schools. These resources are evidence - informed and have been developed with advice from members of ACATLGN, school leaders and teachers to address the specific needs of school communities affected by the Victorian bushfires. www.earlytraumagrief.anu.edu.au/resource_hubs/early_childhood_schools_hub/

Australian Red Cross

E-news from International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) Psychosocial Centre

Coping with Crisis

The IFRC are pleased to announce the release of their quarterly news magazine, Coping with Crisis. In this issue you can read about Strategy 2020 of the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies and how it provides a solid foundation for future psychosocial work.

The magazine, published in Arabic, English, French and Spanish, is sent to nearly 2000 psychosocial experts and practitioners, four times a year. For the English version, click here.

Department of Human Services (Victoria) Counselling voucher program

The Bushfire Psychological Counselling Voucher Program was developed to provide up to six counselling sessions to people who were directly affected by the 2009 Victorian bushfires. The program enables people to see an eligible counsellor of their own choice, and in their own time. Vouchers can be used to see psychologists and other providers who have a Medicare Provider Number. Psychologists who agree to see clients under the voucher program receive a $100 rebate for each voucher they collect. Detailed information about the Bushfire Psychological Counselling Voucher program can be viewed on our website via the following link: www.psychology.org.au/medicare/bushfire_program.

The counselling voucher program continues to be actively used across the state, for children as well as adults.  Over 1500 people have been provided with counselling vouchers.   People  have sought counselling for a range of needs, from supportive counselling, through to help with bereavement, and treatment for mental health issues. 
According to DHS, some people have found it difficult to locate a counsellor who will accept the vouchers.  This appears to have been more the case in non-bushfire affected areas where clinicians have been reluctant to accept the reimbursement rate offered by the vouchers or where there is competition with Victims of Crime counselling rates.
Some psychologists have actively advertised that that they are available for counselling using the bushfire vouchers, and this has been great for people affected by the fires, as it makes it easier for people to access help, and also helps to reduce stigma.
DHS anticipates that counselling demand may increase now, as we pass the 12 month anniversary. 

Australian Centre for Post Traumatic Mental Health

The Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health at the University of Melbourne undertakes world class trauma related research, policy advice, service development and education. Their innovative services help organisations and health professionals who work with people affected by traumatic events.

Trauma-focussed training workshops

The ACPMH runs trauma-focussed training workshops designed to provide participants with skills training on how to conduct trauma-focussed interventions. Workshops are run in a number of different states. Participants will receive skills training on how to conduct trauma-focussed exposure and cognitive therapies, and will explore working with complex cases of PTSD.  www.acpmh.unimelb.edu.au/services/education.html#workshops

Australian Guidelines for the Treatment of Adults with Acute Stress Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

ACPMH has developed the Australian Guidelines for the Treatment of Adults with Acute Stress Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.  Addressing a mental health issue of national significance, the Guidelines were developed in collaboration with Australian experts in the field of posttraumatic mental health and peak professional bodies.  They are approved by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).  The Guidelines contain comprehensive but succinct recommendations.  They are designed for a range of multidisciplinary practitioners providing treatment of adults.

The Department of Health and Ageing have just funded another round of the PTSD Guidelines DVDs which are available free to practitioners.  ACPHM has partnered with the Rural Health Education Foundation to produce this resource.  To order a free copy, go to: www.rhef.com.au/programs/program-1/?program_id=354.

Contact us

If you have feedback on DRN News, or useful information or suggestions that you would like us to include in DRN News, please contact us at drn@psychology.org.au.

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