Free mental health support for people affected by bushfires

North Coast Primary Health Network CEO Julie Sturgess is encouraging Mid North Coast and Northern NSW residents who have been affected by the bushfires to access free mental health support.

Ms Sturgess said the stress of experiencing something such as a bushfire can leave people at a higher risk of developing depression or anxiety, even if they are not directly dealing with loss of property and/or possessions.

"At North Coast PHN, we are coordinating a mental health response that includes widening the eligibility criteria for the Healthy Minds program. Persons affected by the local fires can now book in for free face-to-face Healthy Minds counselling services and do not need a referral from their GP.

"We are also reminding people about the NewAccess program that has been developed by Beyond Blue and is also funded by North Coast PHN," Ms Sturgess added.

Local residents experiencing mild to moderate mental health concerns should call Healthy Minds on 1300 137 237 between 8.30am and 5pm Monday to Friday. Free face-to-face counselling services with a mental health practitioner, such as a psychologist or mental health social worker, will provide people with strategies and techniques to manage their mental health. Healthy Minds services are available across the north coast of NSW.

NewAccess is an early intervention mental health program for persons 16 years and over. The program includes six free sessions with an experienced NewAccess coach, phone or face-to-face options are available. Call 1800 010 630 between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday.

Please note that Healthy Minds and NewAccess are not crisis services. If you require immediate support, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636. For children under 12 years, call the Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800.

In an emergency, please call 000 or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.