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Mater CYMHS experts produce “Black Saturday” therapist resource

Mater Child and Youth Mental Health Service Director Professor Brett McDermott and Clinical Psychologist Dr Vanessa Cobham have developed a therapist resource for children and adolescents suffering from post traumatic stress following the 2009 Victorian bushfire disaster.

The disaster, termed “Black Saturday”, was a series of bushfires that ignited or were burning across Victoria on Saturday, 7 February 2009 during extreme weather conditions. It resulted in Australia’s highest ever loss of life (173 known fatalities) from a bushfire as well as destroying more than 2000 homes.

Professor McDermott and Dr Cobham were approached to create the resource based on their expertise in working with the children and adolescents affected by Tropical Cyclone Larry which ravaged the Far North Queensland town of Innisfail and surrounding townships in 2006.

“There is good evidence that many children experience traumatic stress following natural disasters and Australia is at the forefront of providing a multi-tiered psychological response,” Professor McDermott said.

“Dr Cobham and I have been involved in screening initiatives that have included more than 10 000 Australian children following natural disasters and hope to continue advances in this important area. We both feel very privileged to have been able to be involved in this significant endeavour.”

The therapist resource is a supplement to the Department of Health and Aging (DoHA) Level III (tertiary care) training in core interventions for the psychological treatment of common mental health problems in children and adolescents after trauma and disaster.

The resource was produced by the Australian Centre of Post Traumatic Mental Health (ACPMH) in collaboration with Mater Child and Youth Mental Health Service.

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