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On the eve of Mental Health Day [Wednesday], clinical psychologist and emergency management specialist Dr Sarb Johal says it is timely to remind people affected by loss and disaster of the support available to them on an ongoing basis.
Dr Johal, from Massey’s Joint Centre for Disaster Research, says the day, being held as part of Mental Health Awareness Week, should also make the wider public aware that the impact of events like the Canterbury earthquakes on affected residents, and subsequent worries about their housing, income, rising costs and day to day living, continued long after the first effects of such disasters were felt.
‘It is difficult to know when the need for post-earthquake counselling will peak,” he says.
“It is likely different people will present at different times. We know from the experience in Australia after bushfires that people asked for assistance for the first time perhaps two or three years after the event. We know different people and communities are likely to move forward through their recoveries at different speeds.”
There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that people who seem to be coping and getting on reasonably in life, may actually be living more limited lives, although they may not be aware of this, he says.
“As this awareness sinks in, we can expect a period of reflection as people search for meaning and direction in their lives, including whether they wish to continue in their employment and residential locations.
This is a natural part of the recovery process. However, it also means people who were getting on with things reasonably well may start to come forward for assistance. Their needs may not fit so well with services as they are currently configured. Understanding how to meet these new needs will be critical in securing the well-being and development of the [Canterbury] region.”
Below is a link to some online tips, fact sheets and video presentations from the Centre to help deal with the stress of disasters and emergencies.