CQUniversity academic Louise Byrne draws on her harrowing past to educate the next generation of mental health nurses. Photo by Peter Lawrence
CQUniversity academic Louise Byrne draws on her harrowing past to educate the next generation of mental health nurses. Photo by Peter Lawrence Photo by Peter Lawrence

Disaster psychological impact could take two years to show

RESEARCH shows it can take two years after a natural disaster for the trauma of the event to be fully seen.

Coping with an event as terrifying as Cyclone Marcia and its impact is a complex process for individuals and for a community.

CQUniversity mental health academic Dr Louise Byrne says especially in a regional area like Central Queensland there can be a "just get on with it, I'm okay mate" kind of attitude.

"But there's no getting over that in a couple of days; particularly very young or older people who are physically vulnerable," she said.

"The same thing happened to everyone, so you can look around and think it's not that big a deal because everyone's dealing with the same thing."

Dr Byrne said that before the cyclone there was a sense of being very safe here, but in reality our perception of our towns and our landscape has been damaged.

"It's lovely and positive in one sense that people, regardless of how hard they were hit, have an awareness that other people are worse off than them, but there's another layer to that," she said.

"Yes, acknowledge you've been fortunate - and as a community we were fortunate in that most of us did okay, no one was killed, most people's houses are still intact - but underneath that lies other feelings.

"It's okay to feel more than one thing at a time.

"It's okay to be grateful, but also to acknowledge the grief or sadness for what's been lost... as a community it's okay to both be resilient and to feel damaged."

The Capricornia region experienced Cyclone Marcia together, and over time the sense of destruction and loss can also lead to bonding.

"Having conversations about it, and knowing it's okay to not feel good about it, will add to our resilience because we're telling our stories and letting go as we do it," she said.