BUSHFIRES across eastern Australia may make the fourth anniversary of Black Saturday tougher for survivors, a health expert says.The February 2009 fires killed 173 people in communities including Kinglake, Kinglake West, Marysville and Flowerdale.
David Forbes, director of the Australian Centre for Post Traumatic Mental Health, said the recent bushfires in Victoria, Tasmania and NSW, and the ensuing television coverage, were likely to make it more difficult for Black Saturday survivors to build their resilience ahead of the February 7 anniversary.
"Survivors need to be very mindful of keeping in touch with the information to manage their safety in relation to current bushfire warnings, but be very careful and cautious about the amount of additional bushfires images that they expose themselves to," he said.
"If you are a survivor of bushfires you do get drawn into that, feeling almost like you are managing threat by watching it and keeping an eye on the information whereas, in fact, it is not information that is relevant to your situation."
Professor Forbes said four years on, most people would be in the process of recovery, having gotten back into normal routines.
But there was an important minority of people who would be suffering ongoing mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression.
For this reason, Dr Forbes said it was critical there were local mental health services available for survivors into the future.
Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund financial support for psychological services for young people, children and adults is expected to end this November.
Prof Forbes said it was imperative Black Saturday survivors looked after themselves before the anniversary.
This included eating and sleeping properly, spending time with loved ones and participating in community events, he said.