Australians are no strangers to disasters and extreme weather. Local psychologists with experience helping people affected by fire, floods or other extreme events have formed a disaster response network to mobilise help in communities where it is needed.
The network of more than 1,000 experienced psychologists supports emergency workers as they face extreme situations (and in the weeks and months following disasters). The members assist communities to rebuild and recover from emergencies. Much of this work is done in partnership with the Red Cross.
Research shows that mental health issues following exposure to a disaster are not inevitable: about 1 in 5 will be adversely affected and specific skills can be promoted in communities to reduce the risk of issues developing. Studies in Australia and overseas have shown that problem solving skills, good social connections and participation in positive activities are factors that assist.
Drawing on lessons learnt from the Black Saturday fires in Victoria in 2009 and the Queensland floods of 2011, psychologists are also helping to train Australians to prepare for possible extreme weather events, as research shows psychological preparation - along with practical - can help to keep people as safe as possible.