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Red Cross Recovery Expert Visits New Zealand

Red Cross Recovery Expert Visits New Zealand

New Zealand Red Cross is very pleased to be able to call on expertise from across the Tasman on the anniversary of the February 22 earthquake.

Australian Red Cross recovery coordinator Kate Brady is in New Zealand, and will be working alongside New Zealand Red Cross volunteers at the earthquake anniversary memorial services.

Ms Brady was the recovery coordinator for the 2009 Victorian bushfires, and has studied recovery efforts and anniversaries for September 11, Hurricane Katrina, the London bombings, Columbine shootings, Hillsborough stadium crash and the Sichuan earthquake.

She says its important to remember everyone will have a different reaction to the earthquakes first anniversary.
“Anniversaries mean different things to different people. For some, the first anniversary will be a chance to reflect on the achievements of the past year. For others, it will be a reminder of what they have lost and will bring with it a sense of profound grief.

“Some people may feel guilty because the anniversary may not mean a lot to them – its just another day. There is no right or wrong, but it is important people are able to plan for what the anniversary may mean for them, so they can make sure they have the support they need.”

Kate Brady says it is only now that some people will be taking stock of the impact the earthquake has had on their lives.

Many have been too busy over the past year trying to take care of basic needs like housing, jobs, and schools, to have had time to reflect on the emotional impact the earthquake has had on their lives.

“Recovery is like a marathon, not a sprint. Its important that people pace themselves and make sure their wellbeing is a priority. In all the flurry of activity its easy to forget to take care of emotional and physical health and relationships.”

Ms Brady says some negative impacts the Australian Red Cross has noticed after disasters include substance abuse, violence, and relationships starting to fragment.
There could be an increase in physical illnesses once the adrenaline thats been keeping people going stops. She says its important that people pay attention to their health, as stress can cause ailments ranging from skin irritations to digestive problems and poor sleeping patterns.

Australian research shows post-traumatic stress normally affects around 10 per cent of those directly involved in a disaster, but with a violent, sudden and destructive event like an earthquake, the occurrence could be as high as 30 per cent.

Some survivors could develop depression and anxiety in the coming year, and Ms Brady says its important for these people to seek help.

She says it could take at least five years for most people to recover emotionally from the disaster. However, she stresses that most people recover well.

Her advice for this anniversary is for people to think about how the event might affect them, and plan accordingly, whether that means being around friends and family, attending an event, or taking time out by themselves.

“Some ways that people can support friends and family include asking them how they are, listening and offering practical support. Making assumptions about how people are feeling, telling them „I know how you feel or underestimating the complexity of recovery isnt helpful.

“It is important that people acknowledge how long the recovery process is going to take. Many people who are living outside the impacted area may think that the recovery should be further along than it is – recovery is a very long process and will take a long time.”

Anyone wanting help from the Red Cross should call 0800 4 Outreach (0800 468 873)

© Scoop Media

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