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Caring for Carers: a new support program for volunteer wildlife carers

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Supported by the Australian Government, Caring for Carers was developed in response to the traumatic bushfire season which affected over one billion animals.

The free program, which includes mental health advice, resources and podcasts, has been designed for the volunteer wildlife sector, but will prove valuable for vets and vet nurses experiencing the same issues.

Suzy Nethercott-Watson, founder of Two Green Threads, a registered charity with a mission “to empower and energise the lives of those that care for wildlife” said that the program was just the first step in supporting the welfare of volunteer carers.

“Our wildlife rescuers and carers are our first responders and this places huge demands on them, particularly during intense bushfire seasons. Our Caring for Carers program is focused on prioritising their mental and physical health, so they can safely continue doing their valuable work,” she said.

As highly skilled operators, wildlife rescuers are often put into traumatic, unpredictable and risky situations. Similar to other first responders, such as medical professionals and fire fighters, challenges such as depression, anxiety and PTSD are part of their ongoing rescue work.

Ian Darbyshire, CEO of the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife said that it is important for volunteer carers to know this resource is available to them.

“We are so thankful for our volunteer carers around the country who have worked tirelessly in rescuing our wildlife through some of the worst conditions we have ever seen. Along with survival stories, they have also witnessed incredible loss, so caring for our carers is our highest priority,” Ian said.

The first elements of our comprehensive Caring for Carers guides include bushfire recovery resources for wildlife volunteers, where to get mental health support, and the ‘Take Care to Give Care’ guide.

Humans can be resilient when they have the right support around them.

The five printable guides provide practical advice about how to draw on and develop skills to continue on in the face of hardship. Reading these may offer some ideas on how to reach out and engage in conversations that can build social threads of support and connection.

Topics covered in the guides includes managing emotional distress, importance of social connections, helpful thinking, problem solving, taking time for pleasurable activities, and where to get mental health support.

A free mental health service is available, with helpful support offered in person, online or by phone.

The ‘Take Care to Give Care’ guide provides suggestions for managing the challenges that might arise for wildlife volunteers particularly following a large-scale natural disaster like bushfire, severe drought, flood or cyclone.

It offers information and prompts to help wildlife volunteers balance their care of wildlife with care for themselves.

The Wildlife Heroes Caring for Carers package is supported by the Australian Government through its Bushfire Recovery program.

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