Stressors and Supports in Postdisaster Recovery: Experiences After the Black Saturday Bushfires

Louise Harms, Lisa Gibbs, Greg Ireton, Colin MacDougall, Kate Brady, Lauren Kosta, Karen Block, Elyse Baker, H. Colin Gallagher, Connie Kellett, David Forbes, Richard Bryant

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    2 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Many studies show that long-term poor mental health outcomes for disaster-affected people are predicted by postdisaster stressors. Despite this finding, existing recovery frameworks vary in how these stressors are conceptualised. This paper examines community members’ subjective perceptions of what they found problematic and useful in their recoveries after the Australian 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, and considers them in the light of these frameworks. We report the findings from responses to semi-structured survey questions as part of the Beyond Bushfires study, 3–4 years after these bushfires (n =811). Participants identified the biggest problems as managing rebuilding processes and managing their own mental health, memories of the Black Saturday fires, and their concerns for family members. The four most useful supports were family, friends, rebuilding resources, and their community. We found a complex interplay of the same factors operating as both stressors and supports, particularly in relation to family levels of coping. IMPLICATIONS Disaster recovery efforts require the simultaneous management of physical rebuilding and human processes. Families, friends, and neighbours are underestimated resources in postdisaster recovery. Given the complex interplay of the same factors operating as both stressors and supports, interventions are needed that maximise the positive dimensions of these factors. To manage this complexity, multiple frameworks are needed to guide disaster recovery.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)332-347
    Number of pages16
    JournalAustralian Social Work
    Volume74
    Issue number3
    Early online date14 Mar 2021
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2021

    Keywords

    • Bushfire
    • Coping
    • Disaster
    • Family
    • Recovery
    • Social Work
    • Stressors
    • Support

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