HAWKESDALE CFA captain Steve Stewart has welcomed federal government funding for mental health support for those affected by the St Patrick’s Day fires.

Member for Wannon Dan Tehan announced the $250,000 in funding for Western Victoria Primary Health Network (PHN) to deliver extra counselling services.

The announcement was made on Tuesday at the Hawkesdale CFA station.

The Hawkesdale brigade was involved in fighting the fires and Mr Stewart said the more help for CFA members and the general community, the better.

“I hope people take up the offer of extra counselling,” Mr Stewart said

“Sometimes country people don’t talk about their problems enough, they can bottle them up and say they’re fine.

“We need to use every method available to help people who might be battling mentally.”

Mr Stewart said counsellors would be available to talk to at a Community After Fire Day the Hawkesdale community is holding on Sunday.

“It’s a day to get everyone together and again, another chance for people to have a chat,” Mr Stewart said.

PHN CEO Dr Leanne Beagley said those wishing to access the extra counselling available from the federal government funding can do so by visiting their GP and securing a referral.

Mayors from the shires caught in the fires, Corangamite (Jo Beard), Moyne (Mick Wolfe) and Southern Grampians (Mary-Ann Brown) were in attendance for the announcement.

Mr Tehan said following a disaster, 20 per cent of people were still at risk of developing significant mental health conditions that may require specialised mental health care.

“The Prime Minister told me that he was very proud of our community and how it had responded to the fires”, Mr Tehan said.

“As the Prime Minister said, when nature is at her worst, Australians are at their best. But as we all know, after a traumatic event, the most important thing is to look after yourself and others.

“If you or someone you know needs help, I encourage you to use these (counselling) services. They are there to support you.”

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