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2020 eTalk #3 - The Personal Cost of Natural Disasters

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  • Overview

The personal cost of natural disasters – mental health problems. Reports and updates on bushfires, cyclones, floods and COVID-19 have headlined the news throughout Australia in 2020 triggering feelings of terror, hopelessness and helplessness in some people. While both distressing and overwhelming these emotions are normal responses for people living through a traumatic event and also for people witnessing it unfold in the media.


Everyone responds to trauma differently. Some people experience severe stress during or immediately after the event while for some people it occurs weeks, months or years after the event. The natural disasters of 2019/2020 may even trigger these same emotions in people who have been exposed previously to similar traumatic situations. These stressful feelings usually do not last longer than hours, days or weeks.


Most people who experience trauma do not go on to develop mental health problems, however, for some people the stressful emotions remain and they may develop post-traumatic stress disorder, other anxiety disorders or depression. It can happen to anyone. You, your family, your friends and your clients may struggle to cope with overwhelming emotions in response to a natural disaster or disease. Accessing timely, appropriate help to manage the stressful emotions can minimise the risk of developing a mental health disorder.

How do you recognise if someone is struggling to cope? What can you do to help?

This eTalk will talk about recognising signs that suggest a person may not be coping and outline what you can do to assist them in the short and long term.



Associate Professor Joanne Connaughton  

Dr Joanne Connaughton (DPhysioRes, BAppSc Physio, APAM) - Adjunct Associate Professor School of Physiotherapy, The University of Notre Dame Australia. National Chair Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) Mental Health Group and Secretary International Organisation of Physiotherapists in Mental Health (IOPTMH).


Associate Professor Joanne Connaughton is an adjunct at the University of Notre Dame Australia, having retired from the Dean’s position in 2018. Before moving to academia Jo was Senior Physiotherapist in a mental health hospital working with adults with acute mental health issues. This influenced both her future teaching and her research with Jo’s doctorate exploring headaches experienced by people with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder.


Jo is a qualified Mental Health First Aid trainer, Chair of the APA National Mental Health group and Secretary of the International Organisation of Physical Therapist in Mental Health. She passionate about treating every person as an individual with both a mind and a body, promoting good physical health for people with mental health issues and good mental health for people with physical health problems. Jo believes that physiotherapists are best placed health professionals to truly implement a bio-psycho-social approach to every person we treat.


CPD Hours

30 minutes


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