Mental health of MidCoast bushfire victims concerns mayor David West

Bushfire victims - ask yourself 'Are you okay?'

Mental health is at the forefront of mayor David West's thinking. Not his mental health. The mental health of those people who have lost homes, property, livestock or pets in the devastating bushfires of November 2019.

One hundred and forty homes were lost across the Mid Coast. Thirty five per cent of the council area has burnt this bushfire season.

Mayor West calculates that at least 400 people have been directly affected - but not near that number of people are seeking the help that is available to them, help chiefly in the form of counselling.

He's concerned people are being stoic, but he knows the hurt is very real and help is available now.

He encourages people to acknowledge they need counselling. There's no shame is seeking help. Our area was devastated by bushfire two months ago, but with media attention now focused on the South Coast bushfires, there appears to be a lack of urgency to confront the loss and seek assistance.

"But the situation hasn't changed,'' Cr West said.

"People have suffered devastating loss and they need to acknowledge they may not be coping as well as they think they are.

"Our fires are only 'under control' and we still have as many as 20 fires burning. And we have two months of summer ahead and we are tinder dry, with no forecast of decent rain in the near future.''

The mayor lives in a hotspot. He was evacuated twice in November but the fire did not come his way. He continues to live with the threat of fires reaching Yarratt Forest, Brimbin and Carey's Mountain.

The mayor's fear is the help available now, over the next few weeks, may not be there when people realise that they are not okay. And then it could be left to our overworked GPs to deal with the aftermath.

The Disaster Welfare Access Point on Wynter Street, Taree.

The Disaster Welfare Access Point on Wynter Street, Taree.

So he is asking those who have lost homes or property, stock, pets, anything, to consider their mental health, just as they would their personal health, and talk to someone. A recovery assistance point at 68 Wynter Street Taree has been set up to support those impacted by recent bushfires, by providing the latest information to members of the community impacted by the fires.

Run by the NSW Government's Office of Emergency Management and assisted by MidCoast Council, the centre is designed to provide information on government and non-government services and acts as a referral service to support individuals and communities impacted by disasters.

The mayor is certain many members of our community will require support and counselling well into the future and urges those in need to attend the recovery assistance point to get advice, support and assistance.

The assistance point is operating as a base but is also mobile to allow contact with some of the more remote impacted communities. The mobile visits happen on a regular basis and over the coming weeks will visiting the communities of Bobin (Friday 5pm), Mooral Creek (Saturday 5pm), Killabakh (Sunday 3pm), Mount George (Thursday, January 16 5pm), Tinonee (Friday, January 17 5pm), Wherrol Flat (Thursday, January 23 5pm) and Rainbow Flat (Friday, January 24 4pm).

This assistance point also provides access to a range of government and non-government services including Disaster Welfare Services, the Red Cross, chaplains, representatives of the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program and Rural Fire Service staff.

If you are unable to visit, please call 1800 018 444.

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