by Peter Carruthers
DISASTER recovery specialist Dr Rob Gordon addressed a small group of community leaders at the Proserpine RSL on Monday night.
Mr Gordon brings to the Whitsundays an intimate knowledge of how natural disasters can affect the quality of victims' lives.
He has counselled the people affected by the Ash Wednesday bushfires in Victoria, the Christchurch earthquakes and victims of Cyclone Ului and Yasi.
Though he said he had not yet been approached by people suffering as a direct result of their experience in the immediate aftermath of the cyclone, he made clear there was a need for a much broader support other than trauma counselling.
"How people come out of a disaster depends on what happens during this long protracted recovery,” he said.
"The grinding problems of dealing with insurance companies and finances and that is really what I am here to talk about.
"We can't avoid the day but we can reduce the impact of this chronic stress period now.”
Dr Gordon estimated 10-20% of people impacted by Cyclone Debbie would develop post traumatic stress disorder.
"It is very important that those people get picked up and cared for,” he said.
"There will be a larger group who don't get the full spectrum but get the hee-bee-gee-bees when the winds blows.”
Underpinning the cynical diagnosis and irrational fear is general stress and disruption to people's lives, Dr Gordon said.
"People lose the rewarding qualities of there life because they don't have the time or the energy to engage in recreational activities.”
Dr Gordon said his role in the community was to alleviate the suffering of those directly affected and to also educate community leaders on how to recognise and support cyclone victims.
Reverend of the Uniting Church in Proserpine Jenny Potter was at the session on Monday and said people's resilience has been challenged by Cyclone Debbie.
"(We are learning about) how to reassure people and to understand this is part of a physiological disorder, its not all in your head,” she said.
Cannonvale/ Airlie Beach sessions
- Today from 12.30-2.30pm, Whitsunday Neighbourhood Centre
- Today from 6-8pm, Shingley Beach Resort