Cyclone Yasi trauma lingers
On February 3 last year, the biggest cyclone in memory smashed into the Far North Queensland coast. Residents lost their homes, farmers lost their crops and businesses lost their livelihoods. How is the impact zone faring one year on? Meet the battered b
PARENTS find their children huddled under beds during storms, relationships are breaking down and hundreds on the Cassowary Coast are getting by with the help of anti-depressants.
A year after cyclone Yasi the "she’ll be right" facade is cracking.
Mental health experts and community organisations say they are experiencing an influx of people seeking financial and emotional help, and medication.
They say cyclone victims are tired – emotionally and physically drained by the trauma of Yasi, the long clean-up, exhausted by striving for a return to normality.
But as locals pause this week to remember the storm, there are calls for cyclone victims to focus on their emotional state and mental health.
"There are adults who panic if it is windy, parents finding children hiding under their beds when it rains, relationships breaking down," said Tully priest Father Karel
"This is not because of Yasi, but these issues have come to a head because of the pressure after Yasi.
‘‘People have been so focused on their homes and possessions but not their heads, and this week is the time to do that. I hope the anniversary will be a chance for people to come to terms with how they are feeling and work through it if they haven’t already."
Red Cross consultant psychologist, Dr Rob Gordon said disaster victims often get consumed by the recovery and forget to look after themselves.
"While people are reflecting on the last 12 months I would encourage them to take stock of themselves and how they are feeling and make a long-term plan for recovery,’’ he said.
Finding her four year-old-daughter Monique huddled under her bed during storms last month brought Cardwell mum Kirsty Wells to tears.
"We sat out Yasi at a friend’s place in Tully," she said. "I don’t think any of us will ever forget that wind – it sounded like a train was coming through on top of your head.
"When we got back home we had lost almost everything. Looking back I probably shouldn’t have taken the kids that first day but we didn’t know what else to do. Seeing her under the bed made me realise, we may be back home but we have a lot more to deal with as a family then we
In Tully Heads, Lil Wolff camped in her destroyed home for months, before she and her carer Lee Wills moved into a donga as they battled their insurance company and waited for building contracts to start.
During the wet season’s first storm she says she had a "total breakdown," terrified by the wind.
"Then the second storm came and I shook like a leaf again," she said.
"When the next one came I grabbed Lee’s hand and made myself sit out on the porch and watch it. There was no way I am going to let the weather control me."
The pair has finally moved home but like many in the Yasi zones Lil is taking anti-depressants.
"It will not be a long term thing," she said. "But for now after such a year it is working for me.
‘‘Most people say they are ok," she said. "But not many of us are really.
"It is hard to acknowledge how you feel, let alone begin to work on it."
If you need help contact: Lifeline on 13 11 14 or at www.lifeline.org.au; Kids Help Line on 1800 55 1800 and Mensline Australia on 1300 789 978.
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Walking the walk: Residents walk through Tully Heads yesterday "to leave Yasi behind". Pictures: BRENDAN FRANCIS