A five-year study analyzing the health and wellbeing impacts of the Black Saturday Bushfires in Australia tracked the interplay between mental health and social connections of natural disaster survivors. The results should inform efforts by government, emergency services, community agencies and communities to prepare for future disasters and develop effective recovery services.
The research explored individuals’ responses to family, social and community influences, and how these relationships affected their recovery. While the report confirmed impressive resilience and community spirit, many people suffered delayed trauma, and a quarter of study participants in high-impact communities still had serious mental health problems three to four years later.
- Post traumatic Mental health was still high after 5 years, 21% were suffering from PTSD in high impacted areas.
- Social ties contributed strongly to people’s wellbeing
- Separation from family members during the emergency has a long-term mental health impact for some people
- The wellbeing of those who stayed in communities vs those who moved away was similar, but their experiences were very different, those who stay more likely to experience depression whereas those who leave more likely to experience major life stresses
- Anger could be helpful, but also had a mental health impact, depending upon its manifestation
- Connection to place and environment was connected with people’s recovery
- Being part of a community group is better for a person’s recovery