North Queensland mental health services have reported an increase in clients suffering from mental illness witnessing the traumatic bushfire images. Picture: QFES
North Queensland mental health services have reported an increase in clients suffering from mental illness witnessing the traumatic bushfire images. Picture: QFES

Young Queenslanders suffer from bushfire images

WHILE bushfires rage in southern states, mental health services in North Queensland have noticed an increase in residents reporting mental illness in relation to the infernos.

Northern Australia Primary Health Limited has experienced an influx of residents suffering from compassion fatigue and other mental health issues.

Mackay-based NAPHL psychologist Sonia Wyatt said the confronting images shown on bushfire coverage had had a particular impact on young people in the region.

She said while the closest blaze might seem a long distance away it was crucial not to underestimate the impact on children and teenagers witnessing trauma and disaster could have.

"People who experience compassion fatigue can exhibit symptoms including hopelessness, physical and emotional exhaustion, a decrease in experiences of pleasure, constant stress and anxiety, sleeplessness or nightmares, and a pervasive negative attitude," Ms Wyatt said

"Children may appear sad and quiet, or more anxious than usual, and they may express themes of concern regarding the bushfire disaster, which we should not dismiss."

Ms Wyatt said compassion fatigue could have detrimental effects such as a decrease in productivity, the inability to focus and the development of new feelings of incompetency, guilt and self-doubt.

In the case of young people, she said, it was important to be mindful of the broader context and concerns around climate change and the nature of the bushfire coverage.

"We see the concerns from the media about climate change as a frequent worry which creates anxiety in our young people," Ms Wyatt said.

"As such, coverage of this nature creates heightened anxiety for people about the future of our planet, or increased apathy in their own goal setting and future focus as, 'What's the point?'"


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