Floods of Emotion

Caring for Queensland Flood Survivors this Christmas

Late 2010 and early 2011 we were hit with floods that affected 75% of Queensland, including an in-land tsunami in the Locker Valley, west of Brisbane. In these floods, 35 people were confirmed dead and 9 missing. Tens of thousands of people lost homes, belongings and livelihoods during these floods. It is now Christmas 2011 and the media has largely forgotten the devastation. However this Christmas is going to be very emotionally difficult for a lot of Queenslanders this year as it will trigger memories of what has been lost and loved ones who have died.

There are still a number of people who are very much dealing with the immediate effects of the floods. They may have not secured employment or housing or may be unable to replace belongings. Building repairs are still being carried out. For some, what they have lost is irreplaceable. But the biggest effect this Christmas for flood victims is the emotional aftermath of the disaster.

An increase in conditions such as depression, trauma and anxiety is to be expected throughout this time of year due to the floods. Grief will be exacerbated by Christmas for some people, as the reality of their loss is setting in. It is normal for loss and grief to take years, not months. While many people may expect them to have “moved on” by now, those expectations are completely unrealistic. A normal grief cycle takes over a year to get through the worse of it. It can still be years after than before a person discovers happiness.

What to look for if you are a flood survivor

If you have been affected by the floods there could a range of things you may experience this Christmas. Symptoms of depression, trauma or anxiety could be exacerbated and grief could be intensified.

If you are worried that you may be experiencing depression, here are some symptoms to watch out for:

  • Difficulties sleeping or eating
  • Being randomly teary or feeling empty inside
  • Loss of interest in activities you usually enjoy
  • Excessive fatigue or a lack of motivation
  • Feeling generally bad about yourself
  • Wanting to withdraw or escape from the world
  • If you are concerned you may be experiencing anxiety, here are some symptoms to watch out for:

  • Excessive worry, over analyzing things, thinking of worst case scenario
  • Racing heart, nausea, shallow breathing, sweaty palms
  • Difficulties making decisions, remembering things and concentrating
  • If you have experienced events in the floods where someone died or you felt threatened with serious injury, you may be suffering from trauma or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Symptoms of both anxiety and depression
  • Hyper-vigilance or scanning for danger
  • Being jumpy or expecting bad things to happen
  • Bad dreams, nightmares or flashbacks
  • Being irritable, anger out bursts
  • Panic attacks
  • Avoiding anything that may remind you of the trauma
  • Emotionally shut down or feeling emotionally distant from everyone else
  • If you think you may be experiencing any of these conditions following the 2010/2011 Queensland floods then it is important to see your doctor and find an appropriate therapist you feel comfortable with. Some of these conditions do not go away on their own and can affect you for a long time to come without professional treatment.

    What can you do to help someone affected by the floods?

    There are a number of things you can do to help someone struggling emotionally with the floods this Christmas. These include:

  • Recognize a realistic time-frame for grief and loss and do not expect them to be “over it” this Christmas
  • Allow them to talk openly about how they feel
  • Validate their feelings
  • If they are close and on their own, ask them to be involved in your Christmas
  • Assist them to get professional counselling if you believe they need it

    These are the fundamentals of caring for someone who is experiencing loss and grief or is psychologically affected by the floods. If they have severe symptoms such as anger outbursts from trauma or suicidal ideation associated with depression, then supporting them to access appropriate therapeutic help is vital.

    If you do not know anyone directly who was affected by the floods then you can still help by donating to charities that are assisting flood victims.



    The spirit of Christmas is all about giving and helping those in need is essential to our community and our country


    4 Responses to “Floods of Emotion”

    • Suzanne Robertson:

      Hi Vanessa

      The media may not be reporting about it but I’m sure many people are thinking of those who were devastated by the floods. Particularly, when it’s coming up to Christmas, it’s almost a year since the floods occurred and it’s been raining quite a bit lately. It’s completely normal that those who were affected might be struggling at the moment. I hope they do take some comfort in knowing that others are thinking of them and seek support, if needed.

      • Vanessa Bushell:

        Hi Suzanne, thanks for responding to my blog on the Queensland floods.

        I agree there are a lot of us thinking of those who were seriously affected by the floods, it’s great for them to know we are aware of their pain and that they are not alone. I think also there are probably a lot of people who experienced the floods who are not aware of their symptoms or who are feeling very isolated. So this post can help them gain understanding and access help if they need to!

        It’s great to know you are thinking of them too

    • Kama:

      Vanessa a great reminder to not just forget what people have been through. A lovely compassionate, informative and caring post. Thank you