Psychologists provide tips for coping with the Black Saturday

Document Sample
Psychologists provide tips for coping with the Black Saturday Powered By Docstoc
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.

President of the Australian Psychological Society (APS), Professor Bob Montgomery, said that anticipating what the
anniversary might be like, how you might feel, and how you would like to spend the day are effective ways to prepare
yourself psychologically.

“It’s common for the anniversary of traumatic events to trigger some bad memories and rub some salt into emotional
wounds. Successful psychological recovery after a disaster does not mean survivors don’t care any more. It means
they have been able to work through the normal healing process so that the distress of the event no longer intrudes
into their ability to lead a normal, happy life. But they will still feel some understandable distress when reminded of the
event and that’s what anniversaries do, especially one that is going to be marked like this one,” Professor Montgomery

“Quite often, people choose to attend public anniversary memorials or establish their own commemorative rituals, like
planting a tree. Others allow themselves to do nothing special, or to do practical things that give them a sense of
progress twelve months on. Do what’s right for you and know that everyone copes in their own way.

 “One of the most human of characteristics is that we are all different, that quite normally we will have different
reactions to traumatic events and benefit from different forms of help. Survivors facing an anniversary or other
reminder of a disaster should decide for themselves what their best personal plan is for coping with the inevitable
jogging of memories. For some, it will be attending community or group events, getting back in touch with the sense of
community belonging and support that has been an important part of their recovery. But for others, it may be seeking
solitude or the supportive company of just one or two special companions. No one should feel obliged to endure a
commemoration that will be unhelpfully distressing.”

Research shows that the majority of disaster survivors will heal themselves in the weeks and months after the event
without needing specialised help, just basic emotional, social and practical support. However, around 20 per cent will
struggle to recover unless they do receive professional, evidence-based psychological support.

“Unfortunately we know that there will be a sizable minority of survivors who have not yet been able to lay their bad
memories to rest, who are still struggling with the psychological aftermath of Black Saturday. They may still be having
flashback memories, nightmares, disturbed sleep, heightened anxiety and nervousness, anger or depression. For
them, the revisiting of the event will be extra stressful. We encourage anyone in this situation to recognise it’s a sign
that they should get some professional help,” Professor Bob Montgomery said.

Some useful tips for coping with the Black Saturday anniversary include:
   Anticipate how you might feel and what might trigger your grief or distress.
   Take some time to think about how you would like to spend the weekend, even if you are not planning to do a lot.
   Recognise that you have been through a distressing experience and give yourself permission to experience some
   reaction to it. Don't be angry with yourself for being upset.
   Acknowledge that there will be unpleasant thoughts, feelings or reminders associated with the anniversary and
   remind yourself that this is normal.
   Share your experiences with others when opportunities arise. This may feel uncomfortable for some this
   weekend, but talking to others can be helpful. Expressing your feelings in a diary can be a helpful alternative.
   Consider commemorating loved ones by doing something in their memory – for example, planting a tree or
   lighting a candle.

“Let’s not forget, this anniversary can also be a time of optimism for some, as they see how far their recovery efforts
have taken them and take heart in their community’s resilience,” Professor Montgomery said.

 The APS has a range of resources on coping with disaster and psychological preparedness as well as other
relevant tip sheets. To access these, go to

For media enquiries please contact:
Ellise McLoughlan
Public Relations and Marketing Coordinator
Australian Psychological Society
T: 03 8662 3300 M: 0428 445 097

The APS is the largest professional association for psychologists in Australia, representing more than 17,500
members. The APS is committed to advancing psychology as a discipline and profession. It spreads the message that
psychologists make a difference to peoples’ lives, through improving psychological knowledge and community

Shared By:
Description: Psychologists provide tips for coping with the Black Saturday