Blog Post Early 2011

Beware of Secondary Psychological Effects of the Queensland Flood Disaster

Over the past week since the flood disaster in Brisbane, Ipswich and the Lochyer Valley, I have heard many reports in therapy about clients being affected by the news stories of the floods. News broadcasts of trauma and adversity can easily effect anyone who is watching, and especially if you are already suffering from depression and anxiety. The effects are amplified because this disaster is so close to home, many people here know people directly effected, and because it was a potential threat in the Sunshine Coast region. So even if you do not know someone who is directly affected by these floods, it is important to be aware of the effects of media coverage of the floods.

In my experience, the general “feel” in the Sunshine Coast since the floods has been shock and apathy. The air feels heavy and fear can be sensed in the community. I think nearly everyone feels the weight of what has happened and a large number of people in the Coast region feel a strong desire to help. The problem emerges when the media coverage becomes addictive and it becomes difficult to re-focus on life outside the flood stories. Given the magnitude of the flood disaster we could expect to see increases in depression and anxiety in not only our flood effected communities but also our non-flood effected communities in Queensland over the coming months.

If you feel this is happening to you there are strategies to help. The first step is to recognise the effects of the media coverage on your mood and anxiety. If you are feeling more depressed or more anxious than before the flood disaster and you have been watching a lot of news coverage of the floods, then this may apply to you. The other sign is when you find it hard to pull yourself away from the watching the news stories of the floods. It may even feel obsessive. The next step is to consciously choose to turn the TV off and re-focus on something that feels safe and relaxing. Guilt may emerge as you do this, but this guilt is inappropriate guilt. Re-focussing on yourself is “self care” and this is necessary to being in a space to give to others in a real way. Have a warm bath, read a book that helps you to feel good, go for a walk or meet a friend for coffee. Do anything that reignites hope! It is important to know what is happening in terms of the floods and it is great to give what you can to people directly affected by the floods but do not forget about your own needs.

When we look after ourselves we can give more to others. This is key! Take care of yourself in time of hardship. If you are in the Sunshine Coast region and need counselling throughout this time, please contact Vanessa Bushell on 0424 507 101