Addressing anxiety and mental health amidst bushfires on the Mid North Coast

Anxiety and fires: People can call Lifeline Crisis Hotline on 13 11 14. The service is available 24 hours a day. Photo:by Robert Dixon of his nine-year-old daughter.

Anxiety and fires: People can call Lifeline Crisis Hotline on 13 11 14. The service is available 24 hours a day. Photo:by Robert Dixon of his nine-year-old daughter.

Lifeline Mid North Coast is urging people to take care of their mental wellbeing amidst the bushfire crisis impacting the region and NSW.

The service's crisis support manager Di Bannister said anxiety is a very real issue and can have far-reaching impacts for people, even when they are not directly impacted by a fire.

"People can be anxious or worried about their friends, family and colleagues," she said.

"A person could be located far away from a fire zone and still suffer from mental health issues."

While the Lifeline Mid North Coast support call centre has not experienced an upturn of calls, Ms Bannister said it's because the crisis is still unfolding.

"Often people with anxiety like to keep themselves busy through helping with the fire effort to support friends and family," she said.

Ms Bannister said the feelings of anxiety tend to come into effect when people can't stay busy anymore.

The call centre is expecting an influx of calls next week, if the fire situation doesn't flare up again.

Ms Bannister said it's important parents look out for children and open a conversation with them about any potential fears, to combat the threat of anxiety.

Parents are advised to be aware of the impact social media and news can have on their child's wellbeing.

Ms Bannister said it can be a hard conversation to have, but not having a discussion only reinforces any fears a child might have.

Ms Bannister gave an example of how a parent might open a conversation.

"The parent might say 'how was it when nana came to pick you up from school today?'," she said.

"The child might reply 'I was scared because you had to stay at work and you couldn't come home too because of the fires.'"

Ms Bannister said the parent can the reassure the child by saying that she or he was safe at their workplace.

If parents don't feel comfortable talking to their children about their feelings in relation to the fires, teachers or school staff can also provide support.

Ms Bannister said children also love routine, so it's important to return to their normal weekly timetable as soon as possible.

One of the best ways to address anxiety, Ms Bannister said is through exercise.

She acknowledged due to the outdoor air quality, it's a health concern to exercise outside. However, she said parents can encourage children to exercise indoors instead.

"They can dance to music videos inside or parents can take them to an indoor activity centre," she said.

Lifeline Mid North Coast is inviting people to ring the call centre if they need support. Ms Bannister said people don't have to be in immediate crisis to access the service, as early intervention is key.

Alternatively people can also reach out to their general practitioner for support.

Ms Bannister said it's important people check in with others around them and ask if they are ok.

People can call the Lifeline Crisis Hotline on 13 11 14. The service is available 24 hours a day.