As communities through the Snowy Valleys continue to manage the fallout from the Dunns Road fire, local mental health professionals are expecting to play a large role in years to come.
The Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD) has been providing additional support on the ground since the fire in January, with a four person bushfire recovery team based in Adelong since June supplementing existing mental health support services.
The team is working in conjunction with local services to provide counselling, mental health first aid training, community events and any assistance required for early intervention through to formal mental health treatment.
One of the clinicians is focusing on children and adolescents, working with schools to assist in their psychosocial wellbeing.
Bushfire recovery team manager Elizabeth Martin said the impacts of the bushfires had been "far-ranging" within the community, and compounded by prior drought conditions and the coronavirus pandemic.
"We don't know how that's going to pan out, we do know from the research that's been done that the effects of bushfire take up to five years to even become evident, for us to see the impact," she said.
"It's possible that the influence of things like the prior drought and COVID on top will actually mean we've got a much longer duration of people experiencing impact from the fires."
Ms Martin said people responded to trauma in different ways, and issues around domestic violence or substance abuse can be exacerbated.
She said a small proportion of people would go on to develop severe mental health disorders, and signs of post traumatic stress disorder could still arise months and years after the initial event.
We do know from the research that's been done that the effects of bushfire take up to five years to even become evident, for us to see the impact.Elizabeth Martin
Ms Martin said it was important the community knew there were people they could talk to.
"Even when it doesn't fix it, we do need support when we're going through hard times, we need to know people have our back," she said.
Ms Martin said many in the community were managing feelings of grief and loss, whether it be loss of life, property or expectations for the future.
For those trying to rebuild a home, pressures around securing funds and managing newer regulations are ongoing.
"People who lost property, lost land, lost livestock, they're experiencing a lot of frustration as well as that grief and loss because of the bureaucratic challenge," she said.
For those people, Ms Martin said there may be a time when there is finally a lull in the work and they may expect to feel better, but find they do not.
"That's a really important time for them to perhaps connect with somebody to talk that through, because that's a normal experience."
She said much of the clinicians' work was helping people understand they were having normal reactions to abnormal experiences.
While Ms Martin said there would always be support available in the area and the wider district's mental health staff had been boosted due to COVID-19, the team was also working on building "mental health literacy."
This means the community is aware of the support available, how to make contact and how to look out for signs of distress in one another should funding for specialised teams end in years to come.
The team's involvement in community events like movie drive-ins and art sessions also helps promote community-connection, something Ms Martin said was important after disasters.
The bushfire recovery team can be reached at 0436 942 100 for anyone wanting to have a conversation.
In a crisis situation, the Murrumbidgee hotline is 1800 800 944.
If you need support or are struggling with mental illness, call 000 in an emergency.
Or please contact any of these national helplines: