Resilience is about adapting

Mental health well catered for in wake of 2019 north west flooding

News
Royal Flying Doctor Service outback mental health clinical lead Dr Tim Driscoll says people in the north west are waiting for an assured wet season before they will feel they are on the road back to recovery. Picture - supplied.

Royal Flying Doctor Service outback mental health clinical lead Dr Tim Driscoll says people in the north west are waiting for an assured wet season before they will feel they are on the road back to recovery. Picture - supplied.

Aa

People in north west Queensland who have been dealing with the aftermath of the natural disaster that swept away much of their livelihood are sick of being told they're resilient.

Aa

People in north west Queensland who have been dealing with the aftermath of the natural disaster that swept away much of their livelihood are sick of being told they're resilient.

So says Tim Driscoll, the Royal Flying Doctor Service's clinical lead for outback mental health, who says the way it's being used suggests that people should keep going no matter what.

"Proper resilience is about adapting. It's not about doing the same thing and finding it's not working," he said. "Wanting out of the industry is a type of resilience as well; it's not about just slugging it out."

The danger in using the description is that if people's businesses are not working, they will feel like a failure, Dr Driscoll said.

The effect of the throwaway line is one of a number of learnings health experts hope to make clear as the assessments around the response to the north west monsoon are gathered.

Related: Producers facing mental health crossroads

Another one of the practitioners is Dr Michael Clements, based in Townsville but who was able to reach out to remote communities in the flood aftermath thanks to a Rural Doctors Association of Queensland Foundation grant.

He said that using resilience as a term was almost victim-blaming and his colleagues were not using it anymore.

"What I'm seeing is that some of the bushies are more adaptable to these situations than their urban counterparts - they've got a long-term view," he said.

At the same time, while some people had fully recovered from the event and were leading relatively normal lives again, others remain in limbo and are still living in an unplanned environment.

Dr Clements said many of his patients had been working through low grade depressive stress, which was very natural, and those with more trauma were dealing with people who were not working with their best interests at heart.

"We're talking about insurance companies that don't want to pay, or tradies that manipulate for the best deal," he said. "People can rationalise a natural disaster but being manipulated is something else."

Region on hold

Dr Driscoll said many people's mental wellbeing now hinged on a good wet season ahead.

"No councils in the region are marking the anniversary, which is pretty telling," he said.

"It's not a case of forgetting or not taking it seriously, it's just that people feel they're not out of the woods yet.

"Initially, people were distressed by what they'd seen and heard and we've reassured them that that's very normal.

"But people went from drought to flood, back to drought - the main concern now is the financial implications if this wet season isn't good. There has been good financial support but it only works if you have grass."

Read more: Doctors to the rescue

Another of the elements medical experts are dealing with is the immediacy of access to disasters almost as they're happening, facilitated largely via social media.

"The bushfires have enhanced the increased feeling of vulnerability being felt generally - that 'she'll be right' impenetrability isn't working so well anymore," Dr Clements said.

"It's partly the scale of the natural disaster and partly the effect of social media.

"Within seconds of lives being threatened, it's instantly seen.

"I've been a doctor for 15 years now, in the military for 13 of them, and have gone into disaster zones.

"The blow-by-blow access via video is permeating us."

Dr Driscoll said the fact that people were saying they were sick of hearing about mental health after the flooding indicated to him that there had been enough available if people wanted to make use of it.

He said a lot of services were still available if people felt they needed to access them, bearing in mind that anniversaries could bring back strong feelings.

"Ourselves, Queensland Health and the Primary Health Network were all funded to provide these services - there are more in the area than ever before," he said.

The story Resilience is about adapting first appeared on Queensland Country Life.

Aa

From the front page

Sponsored by