Mental Health Recovery Information For Community Members After A Disaster
Recovery is about supporting communities affected by a disaster to rebuild infrastructure and restore social, emotional, and physical wellbeing.
It is a complex process that is dependent on the nature of the disaster. Recovery may last weeks, months or even years.
For most people, the emotional impacts of a disaster may be relatively mild and will reduce over the initial days and weeks with the support of family and friends and others in the community.
What To Look Out For
Signs You Might Hear Or See That Tell You A Person May Need Support
It is common for people to experience a range of different responses to a disaster. Some signs that a person may need support are obvious and some signs are less obvious. Signs might be verbal, emotional, cognitive, physical or behavioural.
Below are some examples of signs you may notice in yourself or others.
More withdrawn, not communicating in the way they normally would
Expressing feelings of hopelessness
May talk about a ‘friend’ as having problems, which may be a way of the person talking about their own struggles and reaching out for support
Talking about self-harm, suicide or death
Saying things such as:
"What's the point? Things are never going to get any better"
"It's all my fault, I should have been more prepared"
"I can't take this anymore, I’ve had enough"
"I'm on my own… I don’t have anyone to talk to"
"It can’t be fixed… things will never be the same again"
"Nothing I do seems to make a difference, it's out of my control"
Confused about place and time
Obsessing about the incident
Poor concentration and attention
Difficulty remembering the event
Difficulty adapting to change
Difficulty understanding their reaction to the event.
loss of appetite or over eating
very sensitive to unexpected sound
sudden weight gain or loss
persistent fatigue or exhaustion
loss of interest in personal hygiene or appearance
loss of sexual interest
loss of interest in normal recreational activities.
Increased use of drugs and/or alcohol to cope
Frequent use of humour (which is different to how the person is normally)
Work absenteeism or decreased presence in the community
Giving away things that are treasured by them
Consistently forgetting to take medication that is necessary for maintaining health and wellbeing
Taking extreme risks that show little value for own life (e.g. driving at risk).
Ways To Look After Yourself
Staying connected with regular support systems such as family and friends, neighbours, services and others in the community
Accepting help to address the immediate practical needs, which may help to reduce stress levels
Link with local relief and/or recovery centres, if they have been set up
If available through the State Recovery Hotline, register for a health and wellbeing outreach visit: 1800 302 787. Visit www.sa.gov.au for more information on response and recovery arrangements
Using strategies or activities that would normally help in times of high stress or when feeling down
Getting back into a routine, even if it is different to the routine prior to the incident
Looking after physical health and wellbeing through regular healthy meals and physical exercise.
An important part of communicating with someone is to build trust. This will help the person to feel that there is someone who cares about their wellbeing and is there to listen. If a person feels comfortable talking more openly, it will give a better understanding on how they are coping and if they might benefit from other supports.
The following are some suggested ‘conversation starters’ you could consider using when talking with people who might be showing some of the signs listed earlier:
“Are you okay?”
“It has been a really tough time lately, how are you coping with everything?”
“I’m a bit worried because you haven’t seemed yourself lately”
“I have noticed that you have been (name type of behaviour), is everything ok?”
“Is there something that I can do to help?”
“I am here for you if you ever want to talk”
“Do you know where to get some extra help if you need to?”
“Is there someone that you feel comfortable talking to if you need?”
Keep offering support, even if the person doesn't accept it the first time. If they know there are people around them willing to help, they might be more likely to reach out and access support when they are ready.
What Else Can I Do?
Provide reassurance to the person and encourage them to accept support from family and friends, and community programs
Encourage contact with local Relief and/or Recovery centres (if available)
Identify activities they normally do that help when they are not feeling like themselves
Encourage the person to visit their GP and/or to contact services, and reassure them that it’s ok to seek help
Encourage the person to get back into a routine, even if it is different to their routine prior to the incident
Encourage the person to maintain physical health and wellbeing through regular healthy meals and physical exercise.
Use of the information and data contained within this site or these pages is at your sole risk.
If you rely on the information on this site you are responsible for ensuring by independent verification its accuracy, currency or completeness.
This site includes links to other websites operated by community, business and government.
These linked websites will have their own terms and conditions of use and you should familiarise yourself with these.
All linked websites are linked 'as is' and the Government of South Australia:
does not sponsor, endorse or necessarily approve of any material on websites linked from or to this Site;
does not make any warranties or representations regarding the quality, accuracy, merchantability or fitness for purpose of any material on websites linked from or to this Site;
does not make any warranties or representations that material on other websites to which this site is linked does not infringe the intellectual property rights of any person anywhere in the world; and
does not authorise the infringement of any intellectual property rights contained in material in other websites by linking this site to those other websites.
If you use automatic language translation services in connection with this site you do so at your own risk.
The information and data on this site is subject to change without notice. The Government of South Australia may revise this disclaimer at any time by updating this posting.
The Government of South Australia, its agents, instrumentalities, officers and employees:
make no representations, express or implied, as to the accuracy of the information and data contained on this site
make no representations, express or implied, as to the accuracy or usefulness of any translation of the information on this site or any linked website into another language
make no representations as to the availability of the site and the availability of websites linked from or to the site
accept no liability however arising for any loss resulting from the use of the site and any information and data or reliance placed on it (including translated information and data)
make no representations, either expressed or implied, as to the suitability of the said information and data for any particular purpose
accepts no liability for any interference with or damage to a user's computer, software or data occurring in connection with or relating to this Site or its use or any website linked to this site
do not represent or warrant that applications or payments initiated through this site will in fact be received or made to the intended recipient. Users are advised to confirm the application or payment by other means.