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Emotional and mental health

As at 12 June 2020

Not feeling like yourself after the bushfires? It can help to talk.

It’s ok to not be ok. It’s normal to have strong emotional and/or physical reactions after a significant event. You may be feeling this way if you were impacted by the 2019-20 bushfires.

Everyone may react to these feelings in a different way.

If you’re not feeling like yourself after the bushfires (and now COVID-19), it can help to talk.

Lots of people in similar circumstances are finding it helpful. You might too.

How to access support

Free counselling sessions

If you live in an area heavily affected by the fires, you can access up to 10 free counselling sessions.

The counselling sessions are provided by local services arranged through the Primary Health Network (PHN) in your area, and are completely confidential.

To find the free counselling in your area speak to your local PHN.  Don’t know who your PHN is? It’s OK, you can use the PHN map locator tool at health.gov.au/phn. PHNs in fire affected areas have received funding for bushfire coordinators to assist you find services in your area.

If you can’t find a service in your area, call 180 22 66 and ask about counselling after the fires. They will talk to you about the options.

Easier access to Medicare rebated sessions

If you have been affected by the bushfires, you are eligible to receive Medicare rebates for up to 10 psychological therapy sessions without needing a mental health treatment plan.  These can be face to face or via telehealth.

You do not need a GP referral, diagnosed mental health condition or mental health treatment plan to access these sessions.

You do need to cover any costs on top of the Medicare rebate.

You can book directly with an eligible psychologist, occupational therapist, social worker or GP in your area.

To find a service provider:

  • Find a Psychologist (through the Australian Psychological Society website)
  • Find a Social Worker (through the Australian Association of Social workers website)
  • Find an OT (through the Occupational Therapy Australia website)
  • Or contact your GP to find out if they are eligible to provide psychological therapy.

Visit on the ground support

You can access emotional and mental health support by contacting:

  • Your GP or Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation
  • Your local recovery centre
  • Your local headspace centre (for young people 12 to 25 years)

Call for a chat

You can access telephone support by contacting:

If you need an interpreter to help speak with any of the above services, please call the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) on 131 450.

Or hop online

Wellbeing help for your community

In January 2020 the Australian Government announced a $76 million package to provide mental health support services to firefighters, emergency personnel, individuals and communities impacted by the bushfire disaster.

It includes the free counselling and Medicare-rebated therapy sessions described above. It also includes:

  • an expansion of headspace services for young Australians
  • training in trauma informed care and psychological first aid to frontline emergency response workers, their families and employers
  • community recovery initiatives to support connectedness and social cohesion.

Support is also available through school communities:

  • Beyond Blue’s Be You program is rolling out across bushfire affected schools
  • The National Chaplaincy program also provides support

Kids Helpline is also available on 1800 55 1800.  

In May 2020 an extra $13.5 million in funding was committed to help local Primary Health Networks in fire affected areas boost the wellbeing of their communities. This funding will be rolled out over two years to help the most severely affected areas commission non-clinical and community based activities to support emotional and mental health.

Wellbeing help for emergency service workers (Career and volunteer) and their immediate families and kinship groups

Funding has been granted to the Black Dog Institute and Fortem Australia Limited for the provision of free post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health support services to those emergency service workers including volunteers who responded to bushfires across Australia in 2019-20 and their immediate families and kinship groups.

If you are an emergency services worker who responded to these fires, regardless of where you live, you are able to access these services.

Black Dog Institute https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/

Fortem Australia Limited https://fortemaustralia.org.au/

Other types of bushfire support

This has been a really difficult time for communities recovering from the fires.

Governments aim to support all areas of recovery, because some things won’t be helped by simply talking.

There are many different avenues of support. Financial, emotional and community support and all help you toward a path to feeling better.

To find out if you are eligible for other bushfire support contact your state recovery hotline: