Australian Government mental health response to bushfire trauma

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The Australian Government is to provide $76M funding for distress counselling and mental health support for individuals, families and communities affected by bushfires.

The Australian Government is proposing to create a Bushfire Recovery Access Program to provide immediate and ongoing free counselling and support to individuals, families and emergency services workers affected by the bushfires. This program will give people the best chance of full mental health recovery from highly traumatic bushfire events.

Front line emergency distress and trauma counselling will be available immediately, with up to ten free mental health support sessions for individuals, families and emergency services personnel. Bushfire affected individuals and families, and emergency response personnel will also be eligible to receive Medicare rebates for up to 10 psychological therapy sessions.

Psychological therapy sessions via telehealth will also be available to people in fire affected rural areas that don’t have easy access to mental health professionals. These sessions will also be Medicare funded.

Training in trauma informed care and psychological first aid will be provided to frontline emergency staff as well as to organisations managing frontline emergency staff to identify personnel at risk.

The damage caused by the fires has been devastating to some communities, especially those that are small and isolated. Community spirit is vital for the survival of these towns and villages and to the recovery of individuals. While many people have shown extraordinary bravery and generosity during and after the fires, people in these communities need the support of those around them to recover and face the future.