Following the horrific shark attack at Nine Mile Beach on May 18 a community information session will be held at Forster Surf Life Saving Club this afternoon, Thursday, June 3.
Hosted by Surf Life Saving NSW, the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program (RAMHP) and the Department of Primary Industries from 3.30-7pm, the event will offer the community an opportunity to come together to hear experts talk about beach safety, shark mitigation strategies, shark behaviour and the effects of trauma as well as seek mental health support following this traumatic incident.
Community members are invited to drop in at any time or attend one of the presentations by RAMHP and the DPI at 4.30pm and 6.30pm.
The mental wellbeing of communities has been identified as a priority following these incidents.
RAMHP spokesperson, Matthew Milne said tragedies like these can create a high level of trauma within communities and the ongoing effects can last for some time after the newspaper headlines have disappeared.
"We know that many residents of coastal communities see the beach as their happy place where they can de-stress and unwind," Mr Milnes said.
Our role is to protect and save lives so when tragedies like this occur it deeply affects our volunteer lifesavers.Brian Wilcox
"But, when that place becomes a place of fear, people's mental health can suffer as a result."
People who have been traumatised can experience a wide range of emotions.
"There is no 'normal' way of experiencing trauma because everyone is different and most people will start to feel like themselves again with the help and support of friends or family.
"However, some people may need the help of a mental health professional and RAMHP is well positioned within communities like Forster-Tuncurry to provide links when necessary."
Surf Life Saving Lower North Coast duty officer, Brian Wilcox responded to assist with the incident and agreed many locals and the surf life saving community were in shock.
"Our role is to protect and save lives so when tragedies like this occur it deeply affects our volunteer lifesavers," Mr Wilcox said.
"We have our own member welfare support systems in place but it helps enormously to come together as a community so people can air their fears and concerns and know they are not dealing with this alone."
Mr Milne said that it was not just people who were directly involved in the incident who are at risk of experiencing trauma.
"Sometimes people who hear or read about an incident can be affected without being directly involved.
"This is called vicarious trauma and is very common after high profile incidents within close communities."
Telephone support services
- Disaster Welfare Assistance Line 1800 018 444 (open 8.30am - 4.30pm and staffed with counselling support)
- NSW Mental Health Line 1800 011 511
- Kids Helpline 1800 551 800
- Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
- Beyond Blue Support Service 1300 224 636
- Lifeline 13 11 14
- MensLine 1300 78 99 78