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Navigating the storm: the mental health impacts of natural disasters

Navigating the storm: the mental health impacts of natural disasters

6 February 2024

With the recent extreme weather events caused tropical cyclones Jasper and Kirrily, we know that natural disasters are an unfortunate reality for many regional Queenslanders. From cyclones to floods, these events not only damage properties and communities, but they can also have lasting effects on your mental wellbeing.

Anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are among the common mental health challenges faced by those dealing with the aftermath of cyclones and floods.

According to Beyond Blue, common reactions immediately after a natural disaster can include:

  • feeling overwhelmed
  • feeling numb and detached
  • inability to focus
  • inability to plan ahead
  • constant tearfulness
  • feeling angry
  • intrusive memories or bad dreams related to the event
  • sleep disturbances
  • constant questioning – "What if I had done x, y or z, instead?"
  • 'replaying' the event and inventing different outcomes to be prepared should it happen again.

Feelings beyond a “normal reaction” need support and it is recommended to seek help from your GP or a mental health professional. These can include:

  • a sense that your emotional and/or physical reactions are not normal
  • thoughts of self-harm or of ending your life
  • loss of hope or interest in the future
  • avoiding things that bring back memories of what happened to the point where you're unable to carry out day-to-day tasks
  • frequently being easily startled e.g. jumping when a door slams, and then taking a long time to calm down
  • feeling overwhelming fear for no obvious reason
  • panic attack symptoms: increased heart rate, breathlessness, shakiness, dizziness and a sudden urge to go to the toilet
  • excessive guilt about things that were or weren't said and done.

Seeking support early is a great way to overcome the lasting mental health impacts and can provide you with the tools and strategies to cope when challenges arise.

selectability offers a range of services throughout regional Queensland to support locals who are impacted by wellbeing and mental health challenges. We offer counselling and therapeutic support to help you navigate challenging times. Our a team of more than 40 qualified mental health professionals and provide a safe, judgment-free space for you to discuss any issues or concerns, understand your thoughts, feelings, emotions, or behaviours, and explore opportunities for growth and change with in-person support or via the phone.

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Acknowledgement Acknowledgement Acknowledgement Acknowledgement

selectability acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land on which we provide services and pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging. We acknowledge those with lived experience and those who support and partner with us to improve mental wellbeing and prevent suicide across regional Queensland.

Reconciliation Action Plan | Reflect