Managing the emotional and mental health impact of La Niña and other weather disasters

Managing the emotional and mental health impact of La Niña and other weather disasters

You may have heard of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) where people suffer a type of depression related to the change in seasons. What’s not so well-known is the emotional and mental health impact of weather disasters on people who have lost everything in floods or bushfires.

With the BOM reporting the third La Niña in a row, the emotional impact, stress and anxiety experienced by many business owners can become overwhelming. It’s not just the financial loss but also the stress of cleaning and redecorating buildings and replacing inventory, furnishings and equipment. Then there’s the problem of not being able to trade for an extended period, not being able to pay employees or meet other costs of business.

The impact of weather, such as consecutive La Niña events, on SMEs, cannot be overstated. However, whilst the financial impacts are bad enough, the emotional impacts and the threat to the mental health of business owners, managers and employees are ongoing. A recent UK study into the effect of weather disasters on the mental health of a population found that within 12 months of the event, 19.8% suffered anxiety, 21.35% suffered depression and 30.36% suffered PTSD. Interestingly, the two key factors that affected their mental health were the depth of the flood waters and the absence of flood warnings.

Recovery from these types of weather disasters can take years but with good financial management, many SMEs will eventually recover and move forward. It’s the ongoing mental health of everyone affected by these weather disasters that can take much longer to heal, particularly when faced with similar events in such a short time frame.

Supporting employee’s mental health after a flood event

Following a flood event, many business owners and employees need support to help them process the event and maintain their mental well-being. The Australian Psychological Society provides a four-step process to help people prepare psychologically for a flood. This information is designed to assist people’s understanding of their normal reactions to stressful situations, encouraging a feeling of control rather than anger or helplessness. The Society also provides suggestions for aiding recovery from a flood event, including a focus on problem-solving, maintaining social connections and taking time for pleasurable activities.

Employers need to recognise the emotional impact of floods on their employees and the potential for ongoing mental health issues, which can last much longer than any physical impact. Weather disasters, such as those caused by La Niña events can have a lasting effect on employees, increasing stress, anxiety, depression and even PTSD.

When employees are struggling to cope emotionally with the aftermath of a flood, employers can connect with an employee Assistance Program to help manage their wellbeing. EAP Assist and Altius Group are good examples of privately operated EAP facilitators which can offer confidential counselling, support and advice to employees.

Support for businesses affected by floods

The Australian government provides online resources for business owners affected by floods as well as other emergency situations, keeping you up to date with the latest information. It also helps you create an emergency management plan and provides a guide for keeping your business operating during weather disasters.

It’s also important to discuss your situation with an experienced insurance specialist who can provide advice on the best way to protect your business from the impacts of floods or other natural disasters. Find your local adviser to talk to an insurance specialist today.

Readers seeking support can contact Lifeline crisis support on 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 and Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 (for young people aged 5 to 25). More information is available at Beyond and

Important Information 

This communication including any weblinks or attachments is for information purposes only. It is not a recommendation or opinion, your personal or individual objectives, financial situation or needs have not been taken into account. This communication is not intended to constitute personal advice. 

We strongly recommend that you consider the suitability of this information, in respect of your objectives, financial situation and needs before acting on it , you should contact your insurance adviser to obtain and carefully consider any relevant PDS or policy wording before deciding whether to purchase any insurance product.

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