Thousands Receive Assistance from American
Red Cross Mental Health Workers
Hundreds of mental health professionals trained by the Red Cross in disaster response have provided services to thousands of people affected by the California wildfires. Estimates of the number of homes lost are growing and some have lost loved ones, pets and treasured possessions. Mental health workers are currently screening, assisting and providing referrals in Red Cross shelters, client intake centers and local government aid centers.
“Anyone who experiences a disaster can be affected in some way, whether directly or indirectly through location, loved ones or exposure to media coverage,” said Rob Yin, Manager, Disaster Health and Mental Health Services. “Attending to the mental health needs of those affected is an important part of the larger Red Cross disaster response.”
The Red Cross offers the following tips for those dealing with the emotional impact of this disaster:
Tips for Dealing with Stress:
-- Take a few deep breaths to relax
-- Count to ten
-- Prioritize your tasks
-- Tend to everyday activities and try to keep to your normal routine as much as possible
-- Take time to assess your physical health and seek medical care when appropriate
Tips for Helping Children:
Disasters come in many forms and affect children and adults differently. Children take their cues from their parents and other adults and when these important people in their lives cope well in a disaster, children are more likely to respond positively. Adults can help children cope with the recent wildfire disaster by following some general steps:
-- Encourage children to talk and listen to their concerns
-- Take time to provide factual information about the disaster and plans for ensuring their ongoing safety
-- Offer them a sense of protection. Speak with confidence about the situation, and work with them to build up their sense of feeling protected. A good way to do this is to create a disaster supplies kit and a family communications plan
-- Help your children reconnect with people around them, family, friends and schoolmates. This connection can help strengthen your child’s sense of safety
-- Re-establish daily routines for work, school, play, meals and rest
-- Monitor and limit your children’s exposure to news coverage of the disaster. Children may think the event is happening over and over again when they see or hear repeated reports and images
The American Red Cross offers the following resources to help adults, parents, caregivers and older children maintain a healthy state of mind when dealing with unexpected events:
Picking up the Pieces after a Fire- A brochure and webpage that covers emotional, physical and financial/property recovery in the aftermath of a fire. This is available at http://www.redcross.org.
Maintaining a Healthy State of Mind- The Preparedness Today website was developed in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide information about the different reactions people can expect and how they can help themselves and others cope with unexpected events. The site is accessible through http://www.redcross.org.
Masters of Disaster(R) Wildland Fires - This award winning disaster curriculum teaches children how to prevent, prepare for and respond to disasters and other emergencies while reducing fear of the unexpected. This module’s activities provide a way for adults to interact with children and guide discussion on how forests can grow again and be healthy following a wildfire. These four activities for children of different ages are designed to stimulate discussions and reassure children about how their family will move forward in dealing with the disaster.
Given the uncontrollable nature of disasters, it’s hard to imagine you can take steps to plan for them, but we know that preparing for the unexpected builds confidence and peace of mind, and helps people to better manage these situations. The American Red Cross recommends everyone take three actions to prepare themselves and their family for disasters: 1) Get a kit, 2) Make a plan and 3) Be informed:
-- Assemble a disaster supplies kit. For a downloadable checklist of supplies,
-- Create a family communications and evacuation plan
-- Learn how you will get information from local authorities and stay informed
For more information on general disaster preparedness, please visit http://www.redcross.org/BeRedCrossReady or call 1-800-REDCROSS.
In addition, the Red Cross recognizes the desire of the American public to help. The Disaster Relief Fund is the resource that allows the Red Cross to respond to anyone with disaster-caused needs, whenever and wherever a disaster occurs. To donate, call 1-800-REDCROSS. Those planning to donate blood are asked to call 1-800-GIVELIFE, or visit GIVELIFE.org for more information.
All American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. You can help the victims of thousands of disasters across the country each year, disasters like the California wildfires, by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, which enables the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to victims of disaster. The American Red Cross honors donor intent. If you wish to designate your donation to a specific disaster please do so at the time of your donation. Call 1-800-REDCROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.