NATURAL disasters can shake up people's emotions but coping with such events can be made easier by following some expert advice.
Experts on our Friday Forum - tomorrow from 2pm - say planning, preparation and practice are the keys to resilience.
NSW Mental Health Disaster Advisory standing committee member and University of Western Sydney senior lecturer Penelope Burns and clinical psychologist and Red Cross consultant Rob Gordon have some sage thoughts for rural residents.
Both will join the expert panel of the Friday Forum on Coping with Natural Disasters such as bushfires and floods on Friday, February 6, at 2pm.
Other panellists are Sue Freebairn, a rural support worker for the Department of Primary Industries, who has had a great deal of experience with communities since the Coonabarabran bushfires, and Karen Tully, a program manager for the National Rural Women's Coalition, which provides a collaborative national voice for women living in rural, regional and remote Australia.
After the Black Saturday 2009 Victorian bushfires, the coalition developed a free kit titled "Weather the Storm", which supports groups of women to prepare for disasters and emergencies.
Dr Burns said people should prepare themselves, and their property, for disaster.
"We've found it helps in recovery, so sit down and plan and consider both personal and farm-related things, such as livestock," she said.
Dr Burns said people should remember medicines and documents such as identification and passports.
"Often in the aftermath of a disaster, people can't think like normal so they often can't think of what medicines they are meant to take."
Those affected by disasters could also see a change in any existing medical conditions, so a trip to the doctor would be important after the disaster.
Dr Gordon said while it was normal for people to feel agitated, upset and confused during disasters, if you were struggling to perform basic tasks it was best to seek help.
There were also key signs that help might be needed to look out for during post-disaster recovery, such as excessive drinking, gambling and avoiding work.
"People ought not to think I've got a mental health problem, but rather make use of one or two sessions with a psychologist and work how to put the events together," Dr Gordon said.
"The process of talking brings us out of action mode."
He said conversations could be with a professional, neighbours or friends.
"By telling the story we get detached from it and get into the language part of the brain," he said.
Dr Gordon said allowing yourself time to heal during the recovery phase was vital, as was maintaining relationships with family and friends and all the things that "gave life value".
The Friday Forum is a joint online mental health joint of The Land and the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program (RAMHP). If you don't feel comfortable joining in, you can follow the forum.
Visit on Friday, February 6, at 2pm to take part in the Friday Forum.