The ability to flourish after a bushfire


A MOSH explanation

At first there was a crisis.

Then there was a call to action response.

Then a recovery.

Now, there is a need to rise and flourish.

The devastation of Australian bushfires generated an outpouring of generosity amongst Australians.

Research by the federal and South Australian governments examined the 2009 Victorian bushfires, saying:

The [2009] Victorian Bushfires resulted in the donation of in excess of 40,000 pallets of goods from across Australia that took up more than 50,000 square metres of storage space. The costs for managing these donations i.e. three central warehouses, five regional distribution points, approximately 35 paid staff, material handling equipment and transport costs to distribute the material aid, has amounted to over 8 million dollars. In addition, volunteer numbers reached 1,500 during the first three months provided through over 40 store fronts. Resources in the fire affected areas immediately after the event were severely stretched as a result of material aid arriving without warning and without adequate resources to sort, store, handle and distribute.

Even once the immediate crisis had passed, rebuilding after a disaster took a long time and required considerable resources.

Many people ask themselves: What can I do to help?

At the time of the immediate crisis, they may have donated money, left food out for wildlife or thought about joining a bush regeneration group. And when there are many people without homes and businesses suffering lost income from reduced tourism and other activities, urgency in such a response seems reasonable.

Big, life-changing moments.

Whether society-wide or personal – life changing moments provide unique opportunities to disrupt habits and foster new behaviours.

Think of how a heart attack can prompt some people to adopt a healthier lifestyle. (consider) After a bushfire crisis, “there’s a risk that rebuilding the same buildings in the same areas may not mitigate the current risks or any future risks under new climate scenarios – existing and new communities will be vulnerable. Planning can assist with managing future bushfire risks by helping decide where homes, buildings and infrastructure should be located.”

“Building back better” is a crucial part of increasing resilience. It is also one of the four key principles of the United Nation’s framework for disaster risk reduction (endorsed in Sendai, Japan, in 2015). It stresses the benefit of using the post-disaster recovery and reconstruction phase to better prepare for future risks.

So, our assertion is that mental health and suicide prevention must remain at the forefront of the rebuilding of a community to allow that community to rebuild and then flourish.

Former Suicide Prevention Chair, Matthew Tukaki expressed concern for front line responders who would have seen not just devastation but also the impact on wildlife and farm animals as well as those who have been killed: “We know that front line responders show up in the suicide data from firies to ambo’s and police. Service arms do have mental health and wellbeing support services, but we also need to ensure those many thousands of volunteers also have access to those programs if they don’t and are able to take extended leave post the crisis if they need to. So, while we have factored in a grant for lost income for a portion of that workforce, we also need to ensure that the workplaces they return to have adequate support or that they have direct support through the agencies.”

MOSH Australia.

MOSH stands for Minimisation of Suicide Harm. We are “working towards healthy communities”. MOSH is very unique in that we are fully self-funded. MOSH is about creating opportunities for people to reach out to, for support in times of crisis, ie and if they feel they are at risk of harming themselves or others, and those who are bereaved through suicide.

Nurture and flourish.

The health of our entire community, not just those who are directly affected by the immediate rush of the bushfire emergency, is of vital importance.

It’s where MOSH have now stepped up, to ‘Lean In’ and analyse potential risks and gaps.

Many services already offered, require people to Reach Out for support – to seek and find support for themselves.

MOSH’s intent to ‘Reach In’ to affected communities, to go into the community and find hose people who may have potentially slipped through the cracks, is the new mantra.

MOSH is working towards providing the wider community with the tools to help each other, so they don’t just get caught in the mental health system, or know where to go for help if they need it.

MOSH are working with organisations such as Fleurieu Wellbeing to provide support for a positive psychology approach (a term first used by Abraham Maslow, and then by Martin Seligman and Mihály Csíkszentmihályi).

It is the applied scientific approach to optimal functioning and human flourishing. Building resilience and engaging in wellbeing factors has been researched and proven to be effective in reducing problematic anxiety – which may result as an outcome of the bushfires.

However, MOSH is also wanting to show the community that you don’t have to be a professional to help people.

MOSH plans to meet locals to establish where they are at with day-to-day needs, because feeling supported with things like getting around, staying physically well, eating well or simply having someone to talk to, can make a world of difference to everyday life.

Our plan is to not make wholesale recommendations. Our plan is to be there to recognise gaps, and alert any appropriate authority or service with the information they may need.

Contacts

Jill Chapman

jill.chapman@moshaustralia.org.au

Timings

Kangaroo Island; Wednesday 11th March

York Peninsula:

Adelaide Hills:

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