Townsville’s veteran-focussed practitioner network united for a meeting shortly after a devastating ‘one in 100 years’ flood in February, 2019.
‘The meeting provided an opportunity for health professionals to network and share ideas about what practical support options were available within the veteran and broader community related to disaster recovery support’, said Ms Karen Green, the Townsville veteran-focussed group’s coordinator and Assistant Director Clinical Coordination for Open Arms in North Queensland.
Nearly 3,500 homes and businesses were damaged in the largest garrison and most flood-prone town in Australia.
General Manager of Open Arms, Dr Stephanie Hodson, was the guest speaker at the meeting held in March.
Dr Hodson gave a 90-minute presentation about the psychological aspects of disaster, including:
- Psychological reactions to disasters (acute and long term presentations)
- Prevention of negative reactions
- Best practice considerations
- A framework for intervention
Many practitioners at the meeting were among the thousands of Townsville residents who lost property and belongings in the floods.
Dr Hodson explained that, while some community members will experience mental health problems, the statistics drawn from international studies show that recovery is the norm.
Given the impact of the floods, ‘it would be easy to lose sight of the fact that most people impacted by community disaster will recover without intervention’, said Ms Green.
‘Narratives provided by many participants highlighted the sense of community connectedness, resilience and support that was available during and after the floods’, Ms Green said.
Feedback from the participants was overwhelmingly positive with two participants stating:
1.“Stephanie was a very engaging presenter. I wish the session went for longer. The Disaster Recovery presentation was so relevant and interesting and it left me wanting to know more".
2. “I found the information presented about children and trauma to be fascinating in terms of how an event will be interpreted in different ways by children, and that this is reliant on the influence of significant adults in their lives, and of course the media in all its forms".
Dr Hodson has an impressive career history in the disaster recovery space. Her knowledge and experience in very high profile disasters reinforce the reasons for which she was awarded a Conspicuous Service Cross during her extensive military psychology career.