Everyone needs support after being in or witnessing a traumatic
event but everyone is different so the level or type of support
they need is different. You will find this information more helpful
if you consider what will help and what won't and make a plan for
yourself. You can also talk with a trusted adult about getting the
right sort of help for yourself if it all feels a bit much.
Natural disasters can be hard to understand as we often think of
nature as something beautiful and part of our every day. Natural
disasters are inevitable but uncommon and many people who have been
through one can have a range of emotions.
Common reactions to a natural disaster
Fear and anxiety
It's common to worry that the disaster - whether a flood,
bushfire, earthquake or cyclone - could happen again, or that you
are not safe.
Grief and loss
There is no 'right' way to grieve for loved ones who have died
or other major losses. It's very personal, it's very individual,
and it's very normal to grieve.
Anger and confusion
It can be hard to understand a natural disaster because the
damage seems so unfair, and there's usually no-one to blame. This
can make you feel frustrated, angry and confused.
Sadness and emptiness
You might be sad about losing family members or friends, and
perhaps your home and precious possessions. If you are asked to
stay away from your home, or if your friends are still away, or
your neighbourhood is badly damaged, the sadness can turn to
feelings of emptiness.
When bad things have happened, some people prefer not to think
about them at all. This might be a help to start with, but our
feelings can catch us by surprise later on. It's okay to distract
yourself, but also find some time to think about what has
happenedand how you are going.
You might feel guilty after a natural disaster. It might be
about something that you did or didn't do at the time, or you might
just feel bad about yourself.
Shock makes you slow down. It can help keep you safe in the
first few days after a disaster, and feeling of shock may come and
go over a few weeks.
You might start to withdraw from your family and friends, or
perhaps start to get irritable with others, as you try to manage
your emotions. Some young people use drugs and alcohol to 'switch
off', but this probably won't help them cope with the challenges
Thinking about the event all the time, and having trouble
sleeping, are common after a traumatic experience. Your appetite
can change as well: some people want to eat more, and others find
they don't feel hungry.
Looking after yourself
Eat well and get enough rest
Try to eat three meals a day even if you don't feel very hungry.
Get enough rest so that you are able to cope and make
Reduce drug and alcohol use
Drugs and alcohol can mask your feelings, but sometimes make
them stronger so that you are less able to manage.
Exercise is a great way to let out some energy if you are
feeling anxious, angry or "revved up". It can energise you if you
are feeling sad and helpless, and it helps you sleep better.
Have a routine
When everything feels a little "out of control", a regular
routine can help you manage things and make life seem more
Set some realistic goals
If you need to, break large goals down into small achievable
steps. This will let you prove to yourself that you have the skills
and strength to recover, and feel good about yourself.
Allow yourself some 'worry time'
If you are constantly worrying about, or replaying, the event,
then maybe allow yourself some time each day to do this. At other
times, remind yourself to leave these thoughts until later.
Use your strengths, and surround yourself with support
Everyone has strengths, and you can draw on yours. Surround
yourself with people who are reassuring and comforting, and who
allow you to be yourself.
When to get help
If you ever feel unable to cope because of overwhelming or
intense emotions, or if you have any thoughts of harming yourself,
then ask for help immediately.
Very strong emotions normally start to settle by about six weeks
after the disaster. If you still have trouble with your emotions or
with your usual daily activities after this time, then think about
getting some professional help.
Call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 at any time of
the day or night to speak with a counsellor.
Talk with a trusted adult, such as a parent, teacher, school
counsellor or find out if there is a headspace centre
Your local doctor/GP will listen to you and help make a plan for
This information was produced thanks to the generous support
of the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund and has been developed in
collaboration with the Victorian Department of Health