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Mental Health and Wellbeing – Natural Disasters

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Monday, 6 June 2022

Tags: Mental Health

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, the evidence is developing, unfortunately, that the relationship between mental health and natural disasters is a very strong one and that people's mental health, particularly young people's mental health is significantly worsened after natural disasters. Some evidence from the southern Sydney area in the Shoalhaven, which was very badly affected by the Black Summer bushfires and then by the recent flooding on top of COVID-19 isolation issues.

A youth trauma recovery organisation called Youth In Search reports a cluster of suicides in Sydney, after those experiences, identifies that more than 5000 children and youth are at risk of significant harm in the area, and identifies that one in five children in the area is affected by mental illness with more than a third of self-harm emergencies involving people aged 15 to 24.

Clearly a terrible situation. My question is, has your department undertaken or considered looking at focused mental health disaster planning, including the immediate response support and a program of planned support for the two years after an event, which is the most important point for serious self-harm and degrading mental health, and if you haven't, will you commit to looking into that?

Mr ROCKLIFF - Thank you for the question. Perhaps I will refer to Mr Webster in respect of the departmental view pertaining to Dr Woodruff's question.

Mr WEBSTER - Thank you, Premier. Yes we have started that planning, so the mental health disaster planning is under way, being led in Tasmania by the office of the chief psychiatrist. In addition, we are working across the states and territories and the Commonwealth in this space, and in fact if I was not here this afternoon there was actually a national exercise in how we would respond in a disaster, and particularly how I would respond as the mental health recovery co-ordinator in the state. So there is work at both the state and federal level in this area.

Dr WOODRUFF - That is exciting. That is the immediate acute response, but are you also looking at the two years post-response.

Mr WEBSTER - The recovery is not defined as immediate. The immediate is the response, and then beyond the response there is the recovery, so recovery is the longer term.