Mental health support after an emergency or natural disaster

This page provides resources for schools about mental health support for students and staff following an emergency or natural disaster.

Impact of an emergency or natural disaster on mental health

Major incidents and natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, fires or cyclones can be traumatic and stressful for children, young people and adults, with impacts on mental health and wellbeing. 

It is normal for children and young people to show sign of distress following such incidents. Common symptoms and signs include:

  • changes in behaviour including withdrawal from normal activities, isolation or acting out
  • peer conflict 
  • reactivation of previous behavioural issues 
  • increased clinginess and/or difficulties with separation 
  • re-enacting negative events in plays and stories 
  • difficulty talking about traumatic events 
  • new awareness of death and mortality 
  • anxiety related to loss of security and safety 
  • increased vigilance for signs of danger 
  • decline in educational function including poor concentration.

Managing trauma response and recovery planning

Exposure to trauma can have significant long-term adverse effects for students, staff, parents and carers.

The Managing Trauma guide supports principals, Student Support Services (SSS) and recovery teams to lead emotional and psychological recovery at a school following a school-based incident or natural disaster.

Effective leadership at such times can significantly reduce trauma and protect students, staff and school community members from physical, psychological and emotional harm.

External resources

Support services for students

Information on mental health supports in schools is available via the Mental Health Toolkit

External services include:

Support services for staff

Support for staff is available via: Employee, safety and wellbeing services

Call the Employee Assistance Program on: 1300 361 008.

Or to access external services, call:

Preparing and responding to emergencies and critical incidents

For more information on preparing and responding to emergency and critical incidents, including natural disasters, see: Emergency and critical incidents