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Adapt bushfire plan to guide self-isolation, say psychologists


Murdoch mental health academics recommend limiting exposure to news reports and social media

Australians can use similar strategies to a bushfire survival plan to create a self-isolation or home office plan for Covid-19, according to Murdoch University academics in Western Australia.

Helen Correia and Petra Skeffington, clinical psychologists with the university’s school of psychology and exercise science in Perth, suggest that it is important not to be overwhelmed by fear or panic.

“As with creating bushfire plans, create a plan of action for what you’ll need if you become unwell—follow the advice offered by authorities, focus on problems within your control, and set up what supports you will need,” they write in an editorial posted on the university’s website.

“It’s OK to seek extra support if you’re struggling. There are a range of online self-help tools such as MyCompass from the Black Dog Institute [for mental health]. You can also speak to your GP about getting additional support while you’re in isolation, for example via telehealth with a psychologist.”

They recommend limiting exposure to daily news reports and social media. A similar media “capping” strategy was recommended by state bushfire management agencies during Australia’s recent bushfire crisis.

“When we feel uncertain, we seek information—to know what to do, to help stay protected—but the places we look are not always helpful. Stick to authoritative sources, don’t rely on social media for information updates, and cap how much news you consume,” Correia and Skeffington write.

“We need to be mindful of the threat so that we take extra care, yet not be overwhelmed with panic. We also need to balance our struggles with experiences that build resilience and support helpful, rather than harmful, actions.”