On World Mental Health Day please consider volunteering with the Red Cross
By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer
October 10th is World Mental Health Day, which seeks to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and to mobilize efforts in its support. This year’s theme is, “Make mental health and well-being for all a global priority.” This universality and humanity are part of the American Red Cross’s mission, and in my various capacities as a volunteer, I have glimpsed how needed and effective Red Cross mental health services are.
As we deal with climate change, disasters of increasing frequency and severity, public health emergencies, and other issues, mental health is vital. And professional mental health is especially effective after a major disaster, as we are currently seeing in the aftermath of
Hurricanes Ian and Fiona.
Following a major disaster, Red Cross disaster mental health workers work in shelters and the community to help promote resiliency and good coping skills. They meet with people in need of short-term psychological care to help reduce stress and provide tools to cope. They can also help connect people with resources in the community for longer-term care when needed. Additional mental health professionals provide on-call phone support to those impacted as well as first responders.
Using Hurricane Ian as a recent example, on October 4th, a week after the hurricane made landfall, more than 2,000 people sought refuge in nearly 20 Red Cross and partner shelters across Florida. And to give scope of the tens of thousands in need of assistance, 142,000 meals were provided that day. Mental health professionals are part of a Red Cross team of over 1,500 currently supporting relief efforts in the area.
Other disasters, like home fires, also seriously impact mental health. Each day, the Northern Ohio Disaster Response team assists with comfort and caring as well as ensuring those aided have food, shelter, and medicine. When further mental health assistance is needed, they work to provide it, and mental health professionals are a key part of the team.
As we reported last month, additional mental health volunteers are needed. Those eligible include currently licensed mental health professionals, current school psychologists and school counselors, current psychiatric nurses, and retired mental health professionals.
Gail Wernick, Regional Volunteer Services Officer, shared the need for mental health
professionals to volunteer with the Red Cross in Northern Ohio, “Every day, the Red Cross sees the heartbreak of people coping with the effects of natural disasters. The need for compassionate volunteers has never been greater. This October, in recognition of World Mental Health Day, we invite licensed mental health providers to join us to volunteer. You will use your professional skills to deliver mental health support, so others don’t have to face tough times alone.” To get started, visit www.redcross.org/volunteer.
The World Health Organization has more on World Mental Health Day here.
The Northern Ohio regional Red Cross site has links to explore volunteer opportunities, provide financial support, and give blood.