Australian gov't urged to prioritize children's mental health in bushfire response

Xinhua
Australia's opposition Labor Party has called for the government to fund trauma counselling for school students in areas affected by bushfires.
Xinhua

Australia's opposition Labor Party has called for the government to fund trauma counselling for school students in areas affected by bushfires.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese recently urged the government to prioritize the mental health of children and first responders as the crisis continues to unfold.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday announced 2 billion Australian dollars (US$1.37 billion) in funding for bushfire relief, including mental health support for affected communities.

About 10 million hectares of land had been burned across the country in this bushfire season and at least 27 people have died.

Albanese said that school-aged children "might not be showing any impacts at the moment, but have taken in a huge crisis in their short lives," calling for the government to treat the bushfires as "a public health emergency."

He suggested deploying trauma counsellors to areas hit hardest by the fires.

He also said the bushfire emergency is "a national crisis which requires a national response."

According to University of Melbourne researcher Lisa Gibbs, who studied the psychological aftermath of 2009's Black Saturday bushfires, a "significant minority" of those affected by fires experience long-term mental health issues.

She told The Sydney Morning Herald that counselling for students would be necessary, saying that teachers could help identify those in need. 

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