After a bushfire: community trauma and mental health recovery

Clear Health Psychology recognises the unique impact this bushfire crisis is having on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities.

We know that as our climate changes we are seeing greater intensity and frequency of weather-related disasters. We have all witnessed the shocking images and reports of “Australia being on fire” recently. Bushfires have become a devastating part of life for many people in Australia. For those who live through it, the psychological trauma remains long after the physical scars have faded from the land.

Bushfires have a major effect on the lives of our firefighters, individuals, children, families, communities and our wildlife.

Disaster-related trauma is when the effect of a bushfire disaster (or any natural disaster) is felt in the days, months and years following. This experience can be distressing and emotionally challenging. Everyone’s experience and the timeline of the trauma varies for each individual. You may be feeling unsafe and have trouble adjusting. You may have some sleep disturbance, fear or anxiety. You may also be having distressing dreams or flashbacks. Even if we have not been directly involved in the bushfires, the media coverage on our televisions and social media ensures we are all impacted in one way or another. In particular, children absorb the worry, uncertainty, confusion and fear around them following traumatic events. [1]

You are not alone

It is important to understand that you are not alone and that many other people will have similar feelings, or reactions. Having distressing thoughts and feelings about the bushfires and associated losses is normal. As psychologists, we often remind our clients that they are experiencing a normal reaction for an abnormal situation. However, when these reactions persist or significantly affect your ability to return to your usual activities it may be necessary to seek additional support and trauma-informed psychological care. Here, at Clear Health Psychology, we urge anyone suffering from bushfire related trauma, or any community-related trauma to please reach out for help.

Additional support

Lifeline Australia has launched a Bushfire Recovery Line, 13HELP (134357) which is dedicated to providing support to people affected by bushfires. Additionally, the Federal Government has announced a $76 million funding package over two years to support individuals, families and first responders impacted by the bushfires. Support will be provided through various measures, including free counselling sessions, additional psychological therapy sessions, and Telehealth services. The full package can be viewed on the Department of Health website. [2]

Thank you!

A special thanks to our brave, compassionate and selfless firefighters – you fought tirelessly for our land, our people and our wildlife and for this we are grateful.


[1] Turnbull, S. (2020). Dealing with Australian Bushfire Trauma and Caring for your Mental Health. ABC Life.

[2] Australian Psychological Society.

Written by: Lina Cala