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A traumatic event occurs when a person experiences or witnesses a harmful and threatening situation impacting their life
or someone else’s life. The bush fires that have occurred and continue to occur across Australia will be experienced as a
traumatic event for thousands of people. Many will experience debilitating and severe disruptions to their lives. Although
reactions can vary considerably, when traumatic stress occurs it can arouse overwhelming and unsettling emotions
The Ramsay Way 2020 | 01 15
Guide to help bushfire victims
to cope with trauma
Ramsay Health Care has released a guide on coping after a traumatic event
to help assist communities affected by the devastating bushfires.
Traumatic stress can produce overwhelming and unsettling emotions, leaving some people
in a state of shock and distress.
Physical signs and symptoms include rapid breathing, racing heart, trembling or shaking,
cold sweats, headaches, nausea, feeling choked up, stomach churning, feeling faint or dizzy
and tense or aching muscles.
Ramsay’s Mental Health Service Line Director, Dominique Robert-Hendren, said there are
a number of strategies Australians can use to help people who have been affected by the
“It can be helpful just to show up and to be present with someone. Have no expectations.
Let the person know you are here for them and ask them how you can help,”
Ms Robert-Hendren said.
“Another way to offer practical support is to assist with chores, cooking, cleaning, and
making doctors’ appointments and alternative accommodation arrangements.”
“You can also offer a listening ear as they may find it helpful to talk about what happened.
Don't pressure them – let them take things at their own pace. Let the person know that
it is okay if they don't want to talk about what happened. You don’t have to say too much.”
Ms Robert-Hendren said other tips include:
• Make eye contact with the person speaking to you.
• Let them speak freely without interrupting.
• Ask questions to make sure you understand them.
• Do not judge or give uninvited opinions.
• Don't tell them what they should be thinking or how they should be feeling.
• Listen and respect their wishes and offer to check in again.
For people directly affected by the bushfires, Ms Robert-Hendren said some helpful
• Establishing physical, emotional, and psychological safety
• Connecting to your support network including family and friends
• Accepting support from the broader community and professional networks
• Attending to your basic needs like food, clothing, and shelter
• Reaching out to others and ask for help
For more information, please contact the Ramsay Health Care news desk.
leaving some people in a state of shock and distress.
Traumatic Stress Signs and Symptoms
The physical symptoms can include:
• Rapid breathing
• Racing heart
• Trembling or shaking
• Cold sweats
• Feeling choked up
• Stomach churning
• Feeling faint or dizzy
• Tense or aching muscles
Other reactions to a highly
• Difficulty with thinking clearly, concentration & memory
• Feeling helpless
• Problems with sleeping
• Feeling sad or angry
• Withdrawing from other people and isolating
• A sense of hopelessness
1 Ramsay Health Care | Coping After a Traumatic Event
What can be helpful?
• Establish physical, emotional, and psychological safety
• Connect to your support network including family and
• Accept support from the broader community and
• Attend to your basic needs like food, clothing, and shelter
• Reach out to others and ask for help
How to help someone after a
• Be there
It can be helpful just to show up and be present with
someone. Have no expectations. Let the person know you
are here for them and ask them how you can help.
• Offer support with practical tasks and chores
Offer practical support such as attending to chores,
cooking, cleaning, and making doctors’ appointments and
alternative accommodation arrangements.