Toowoomba Region Residents Urged To “See The Signs”

Doctors’ concerns for the mental health of Queenslanders following a devastating summer of natural disasters have prompted AMA Queensland to launch a new state-wide campaign urging friends and family to look out for each other.

The ‘See the Signs’ campaign has been officially launched by AMA Queensland President Dr Gino Pecoraro.

The aim of this initiative is to help Queenslanders including Toowoomba residents tell if someone isn’t coping by providing a practical checklist of common symptoms. We also want to make sure people know their GP is there to help,” Dr Pecoraro said.

“An additional survey of AMA Queensland members found almost 60% of doctors had seen or expected to see a spike in mental health cases. More than half (52%) thought the affects of the recent natural disasters would continue having an impact on the mental health of Queenslanders for at least the next 12 months.

“In the immediate aftermath of a flood or cyclone it’s common for people to show emotional numbing and even to appear as if in a daze but if this continues for more than five days it may be a sign they need extra support.

The sevens Signs identified by AMA Queensland to help indicate whether a person is having difficulty are:
1. Complaints of continued poor sleep with ongoing nightmares.
2. Observations a person is easily overwhelmed, tearful or fragile.
3. The use of drugs or alcohol to suppress intense emotions or to try and achieve sleep.
4. A pattern of withdrawing from family and friends and not engaging in day to day discussions that generally allow people to slowly debrief.
5. Problems performing at work such as struggling to concentrate on the job at hand.
6. Startling easily and declining invitations for social engagements and other usually pleasurable activities.
7. Increased or unreasonable irritability with family, workmates or friends.

Far North Queensland General Practitioner and AMA Queensland Councillor Dr Sharmila Biswas said if a person was still demonstrating these behaviours this long after the floods and Cyclone Yasi it was time to seek help.

“Generally these signs can be easily observed and may be useful starting point when talking to someone you care about,” Dr Biswas said. “Referencing changes in a person’s behaviour is often less threatening than directly challenging changes in their personality. For example, statements like ‘I don’t think you’re coping’ are less helpful than ‘I’ve noticed you’ve had some trouble managing lately’.”

Single parents and children between eight and 15 years of age are considered most at risk of a mental illness following a natural disaster. Elderly people are also at risk, especially in situations where family members or carers have been affected. Girls, women, small business owners and ethnic minorities are at greater risk of developing post a traumatic stress disorder as are rescue workers, volunteers and those with a direct exposure to trauma.

Queenslanders in need of advice or support should consult their local GP. To locate your closest AMA GP, download the free AMA Find a Doctor App. Alternatively the service can be found online at www.amafindadoctor.com.au

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