NRMA Insurance and Lifeline have partnered with Australian music icon Julia Stone to highlight the continued need for mental health support for people affected by the Black Summer bushfires. Stone has created a powerful bush poem, “Next To Me”, to shed light on the ongoing mental health trauma caused and to reassure those who are struggling a year on, that help is still available.
The poem is in response to Lifeline Australia continuing to receive more than 400 calls a day to its dedicated Bushfire Recovery Helpline. While the bushfires ended a year ago, for many the invisible fires still burn.
The poem is personal for Stone, who trained as a mental health counsellor and volunteers as a hotline support worker, assisting people and families living with anxiety disorders.
Award-winning Australian folk singer-songwriter and poet, Julia Stone, said: As I wrote in my poem, ‘You all saw it on the TV, but it still burns inside of me’. I want to highlight that it’s important we don’t forget about those who have been physically and mentally affected by the Black Summer bushfires, even though the world has moved on as we grapple with the effects of a global pandemic.”
To help illustrate the evocative poem, NRMA Insurance has collaborated with Julia Stone to develop a mesmerising video titled “Invisible Fires”. Beginning as an MRI scan, a brain dynamically morphs in response to Julia’s lyrics, to metaphorically highlight the overwhelming negative mental impact this catastrophic natural disaster has had on so many Australians.
Stone’s poem follows a two-million-dollar donation to Lifeline Australia from NRMA Insurance and RACV. The donation will help provide video counselling support and community resilience training in bushfire affected areas.
Throughout the fires, NRMA Insurance frontline teams were on the ground in impacted communities, helping customers in person and providing emergency assistance. On the NSW South Coast, one of the hardest hit regions, NRMA Insurance teams spent seven consecutive weeks on the ground and helped more than 2,500 customers.
IAG Executive General Manager, Luke Gallagher, said: “We received more than 12,700 claims related to the Black Summer fires, and I know many of our people were brought to tears hearing the experiences customers shared with them.”
“While most Australians saw the devastation of the bushfires on their screens, as an insurer we also see that the emotional toll on our customers and their communities goes beyond the physical damage to homes, businesses and wildlife.”
“We teamed up with RACV to make a two-million-dollar donation to Lifeline Australia to help extend Lifeline’s tele-health services and to help create local support networks that provide tailored community resilience training to people impacted by the bushfires. This beautiful poem is a reminder that help is still available,” Gallagher continued.
The joint NRMA Insurance and RACV donation will help enable Lifeline Australia to provide more than 8,000 tele-health counselling sessions for communities affected by natural disasters, provide e-learning Accidental Counsellor training for up to 3,000 people in communities across Australia and distribute thousands of tool-kits and resources within affected regions, so people in these areas are aware of the support that’s available to them.
Lifeline Australia’s Chairman, John Brogden, said: “Our Bushfire Recovery Helpline, 13HELP is still receiving up to 400 calls a day. The crisis may be over, but the enormity of the recovery is ongoing. Many people won’t experience trauma for months, even years to come and Lifeline will be there for them 24/7. Julia Stone’s heartfelt poem will help people know that they do not need to suffer in silence. NRMA Insurance and RACV’s generous donation will enable us to extend our essential services for those mentally struggling from the Black Summer bushfires and other natural disasters including floods and COVID-19.”
If you are struggling and need support, reach out to someone you know or Lifeline Australia. Lifeline’s Crisis Supporters will continue to be available on the phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, on the 13 HELP Bushfire Recovery Line (13 43 57).
Lifeline is Australia’s leading suicide prevention service, operating the 13 11 14 telephone line within 40 centres around the nation. The service will respond to over one million requests for support this year, creating an average of 120 safety plans to keep a person experiencing suicidal ideation safe every day.
Lifeline provides support to any person in Australia who is experiencing thoughts of suicide or caring for someone experiencing thoughts of suicide. The service is available at any time via phone: 13 11 14 (24 hours / 7 days a week); Text: 0477 13 11 14 (12pm – midnight AEDT) and online at www.lifeline.org.au (7pm – midnight AEDT every night.)
To donate to Lifeline, visit www.lifeline.org.au/donate