Teams of counsellors from Lifeline Central West have experienced a tireless January providing emotional and psychological support for people affected by bushfires on the NSW South Coast.
The teams have operated as part of Lifeline Central West's Rapid Community Support Program to assist residents in Batemans Bay, Quaama, Bermagui, Narooma and Cobargo.
Lifeline Central West chief executive officer Stephanie Robinson said the relief effort has been an eye-opening experience.
"There's been significant levels of loss, grief, anxiety and agitation among the communities visited, and we wanted to create a safe space for people to discuss their trauma," Ms Robinson said.
"It's about a seven-hour drive from one end of the fire ground to the other and in some areas, people haven't been able to leave their properties."
The teams have put in long hours assisting residents impacted by bushfires, and Ms Robinson said the staff have faced a difficult task processing numerous stories of loss.
"When you hear story after story of loss and trauma, it can be quite overwhelming for most people to take in," she said.
"It's not just those who have lost everything, there's support networks on the ground who aren't equipped to help people experiencing heightened levels of emotion and agitation."
Ms Robinson said expressions of grief weren't always centred around the loss of homes.
"There were families who expressed grief at the loss of their dog rather than their house as for some, a pet is more important than any material possession," she said.
"Others questioned their decisions at the time the fires hit and as a counsellor, these stories can be very hard to hear."
In addition to the South Coast, Lifeline Central West sent staff to recovery centres in Olinda and Running Stream during the escalation of bushfires in and around the Blue Mountains late last year.
Ms Robinson said it'll take a long time for many communities along the South Coast to recover from the bushfires.
"Many businesses have lost their summer trade due to the bushfire situation and it'll take years for some of these communities to rebuild," she said.
"We wouldn't be able to offer these services in times of crisis without the support of the Central West, so we're very thankful for community contributions."
Lifeline Central West's counselling teams are heading back to the South Coast for the next two weeks.
Those in need of urgent crisis support are encouraged to contact Lifeline Central West on 13 11 14.
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