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PTSD, depression, and anxiety: Australia's bushfires are racking up an invisible bill.

These fires are racking up an invisible bill.

Most would agree that even just seeing the billowing smoke, the hellish glow, buckled tin roofs, smouldering ash, the ghostly silhouettes of dead animals lining the roads into obliterated small towns, even when viewed from the safe parts of the country and the globe, even when the horror is confined to a steady scroll behind a screen, is overwhelming.

The helplessness bruises our emotions. We can be forgiven for making a donation, posting something derogatory about our inept prime minister and then switching off our screens for a bit.

For the firefighters, the people wearing masks in boats under those bloodied skies there can be no thought other than surviving one hour or minute to the next. The same goes for the emergency services, the army personnel, those with loved ones in the danger zones, those who have lost loved ones.

Good Morning Britain blasts Australian government on bushfire response. Post continues below.

Video by Good Morning Britain

But what about the rest of us? Yes, we can donate to the Red Cross or Celeste Barber or any of the other funds set up to try to help deal with this unprecedented crisis. We can go shopping and buy things on a list that are needed by the emergency services.

But then what – what to do we do next?

We think about the longer term and how we can help once the fires are out. And I’m not talking about going into towns and spending tourist money. Here is what has occupied my thoughts in the last few months and weeks:

This fire monster has a whole other layer to it. A layer that is invisible right now because the flames are so high and the smoke is so thick.

Once the fires are gone or even if they never do (and that’s what it feels like) many of those survivors will have seen and heard and smelled things that can’t be erased. They may have escaped the fires physically unscathed only to return to ashes where their home once housed their memories.

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"They may have escaped the fires physically unscathed only to return to ashes where their home once housed their memories." Image: Getty.

Firemen and women may have saved 100 properties, but the one that wakes them in a cold sweat at night will be the one they couldn’t do anything for. There will be children who will have lost their safe spaces, their bedrooms and schoolrooms, their cuddle blankets and pets to the flames. Some might be fine down the track. Others won’t.

These thousands of people who will survive this national trauma and who are completely absorbed with their survival right now, may not be aware that the horror won’t end once all the fires are out. They may not be aware that the fires will keep reaping people long after the last flames have been extinguished. PTSD, depression, and anxiety will ride in on the coattails of this disaster for many, many people.

I’ve written several posts on the topic of our inadequate public mental health system. I suspect many of the people affected by these fires may not be able to afford private health insurance to get them good or even just adequate treatment for the mental health conditions brought on or exacerbated by the trauma.

This is what I have thought about as I tried to decide who to donate to. And today Magda Szubanski made that decision an easy one. She has started a GoFundMe page to raise money to provide mental health care for people traumatised by the bushfires, in the longer term, and is liaising with Beyond Blue and other mental health organisations to ensure the money goes to the right places.

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Pls share So we (@willconnolly__ aka “Eggboy” and I) have started a gofundme “Bushfire trauma/mental health Support Ongoing” to raise money for ppl traumatized and affected by the bushfires. As we post this families are hunkered under wet blankets, praying they will survive #bushfiresaustralia Some have lost their homes, livelihoods and even their loved ones (both human and animal) Long after the fires have burnt out many people will still be suffering emotionally and psychologically. Many mental health groups only provide short term help. Once the fires are no longer in the media, show them that you still care and are there for them for the long haul. Please give what you can. We are liaising with Beyond Blue and other mental health organizations to make sure this money will go to the right places. Thanks in advance and blessings ????????❤️ gofundme link in bio #beyondblue #bushfire #lifeline @beyondblueofficial #australiafires

A post shared by Magda Szubanski (@magda_szubanski) on

If this is a cause that resonates with you or even if not – have a think about it and consider donating. Just go to Magda’s Instagram account and you will find the direct link to the GoFundMe page in her Instagram bio.

If you want to help, you can donate funds to the organisations below:

... And there's more.

Mamamia Out Loud, our bi-weekly podcast, is coming to Melbourne for a live show, with 100 per cent of all ticket proceeds going to the Australian Red Cross disaster relief and recovery fund.

It's a brand new show, full of laughs and news and opinions and a few special surprises, with Mia Freedman, Holly Wainwright and Jessie Stephens, on February the 11th. You can buy tickets right now at mamamia.com.au/events. See you there! 

This post originally appeared on Thought Food and has been republished with full permission.

Anita Link is a writer, a mother of two, a small animal veterinarian and a passionate mental health advocate. You can read more from Anita on her blog 

Featured image: Getty.

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