Mental health nurses shower support on NSW south coast: “the community is grieving”

WSLHD mental health staff Eliza Zhao, Rizvan Patel, Kathy Audley, Nick Dunne and Neralee Jeffrey in Batemans Bay.

After being deployed to the south coast last week, community mental health nurse Kathy-Anne Audley says the reality of the bushfire devastation is indescribable.

Kathy-Anne is one of six mental health clinicians from Western Sydney Local Health District deployed to bushfire-affected communities, offering mental health support to those personally affected by the bushfires.

“This is my first bushfire deployment and my eyes have been opened to the indescribable devastation that these communities are facing,” Kathy-Anne said.

“You see it reported on the news, and in photos, but when you drive through these towns and all that is left of a property is a chimney, it really hits home.

“The community is grieving; grieving the loss of family, friends, property, and livestock,” she said.

“A lot of people are in shock and feeling emotions like devastation and anger. There is so much raw emotion.

“I have a lot of people coming up and asking ‘why me, how could this happen?

“We are here trying to help people validate their feelings and let them know that the emotions they are feeling are extremely normal.”

WSLHD mental health staff Eliza Zhao, Nick Dunne, Neralee Jeffrey, Kathy Audley, Rizvan Patel and Susanne Reynolds are helping the community cope during the bushfires.

Having been in the Batemans Bay area for over a week, mental health nurse Neralee Jeffrey said the team has been working in evacuation, recovery and distribution centres throughout the south coast communities.

“We have a really strong team of professionals out here, all working very hard to provide expert care and support to the communities affected by the bushfires,” Neralee said.

“You feel a great sense of purpose when people come to you seeking help.

“We are providing a very small service for the community but it has proven to be so important at this time.

“It’s allowing us to be there for people who sometimes aren’t willing to go and seek professional help.”

Acting Executive Director of Mental Health Bill Brakoulias said he is incredibly proud of the six nurses who volunteered to assist the bushfire victims.

“There is a huge need for mental health support in these areas. I am so pleased that our staff are able to help by providing professional expertise and care,” Bill said.

For information about how to look after your physical and mental health in the bushfire emergency, tap or click here.

If you or someone you know is in a crisis situation, please call triple-0 or the following organisations for support:

  • Mental Health Hotline (Open 24 Hours) – 1800 011 511
  • Lifeline – 13 11 14
  • Beyond Blue – 1300 22 46 36
  • Men’s Help – 1300 78 99 78

For information about how to look after your physical and mental health in the bushfire emergency, tap or click here.