Support for people affected by the Nelson fires

8 Feb, 2019

The MHF is saddened by the Nelson fires that continue to displace hundreds of people and disrupt their sense of home, safety and wellbeing. Our thoughts are with everyone affected as well as the brave firefighters, volunteers and other emergency response services working around the clock to get the fires under control and support those who cannot yet return to their homes and livestock.  

Disasters like this are incredibly stressful and it’s important to know that it’s normal to feel anxious and upset and that it’s okay to ask for help if you need to. If you’re struggling to cope please reach out to whānau, friends, colleagues, neighbours or a counsellor for support.

For those not directly affected by the fires, please check in with friends and whānau and offer any support and aroha you can.

Everyone responds differently in these situations – right now many people will be running on adrenalin, trying to get through each moment. Others may feel helpless and scared and unable to know what to do, or how to help. Many will be experiencing physical reactions such as feeling shaky, queasy and struggling to concentrate. Whatever you’re feeling, be kind to yourself – you’re doing the best you can right now.

At times like this it can feel like you have little control. Here are some simple things you can do to look after yourself and the people you love, particularly children/tamariki who may have a  hard time understanding what is happening.

Take care of yourself

  • Stay connected and reach out to others: your whānau, friends, neighbours and co-workers. Talk about your thoughts and feelings.
  • Use relaxation techniques. Set aside time for a regular routine of deep breathing or other stress reduction methods to alleviate your feelings of anxiety.
  • Eat sensibly; a balanced diet of healthy foods rich in nutrition serves as a natural defence against stress.
  • Be as physically active as you can.
  • Maintain a daily routine as much as possible including regular sleep patterns.
  • Find something constructive to do. Look out for others. Try and achieve little things that help to keep you positive.
  • Be patient with yourself. Know that you will recover balance and peacefulness at your own pace.
  • Maintain balance in your life between your personal needs, your work and your family obligations. Manage your commitments even as you return to a normal routine. It’s ok to say no sometimes.

Take care of your tamariki/children

  • Talk to children and teenagers about their feelings and how they are affected.
  • Use simple honest answers.
  • Be prepared to discuss the same details many times.
  • Ensure that they realise they are not to blame for what has happened.
  • Let them know that adults also don't always understand why things happen.
  • Do your best to be supportive, loving and predictable.
  • Encourage them to engage in physical play and exercise.

On your own?

Sometimes it’s hard to reach out to people around you. Think about ringing a community group for a chat, catch up with your neighbour, listen to the radio or ring your family.

Maybe you can offer help to others.

Need help?

The emotional impact of traumatic events like these fires can take a very real toll on our mental health and wellbeing. If you’re not coping, or someone you care about needs some extra support, there is help available.

Visit the Mental Health Foundation’s website (www.mentalhealth.org.nz) for a list of helplines you can contact for support. Here’s a few:

The All Right? campaign also has a range of articles for supporting people after a disaster. See https://allright.org.nz/theme/mind-your-head/disaster-support/