As news of the Boston Marathon bombings began to spread last week, Tara Hughes, a Red Cross Disaster Mental Health volunteer from Western New York, knew her phone would be ringing soon.
A licensed clinical social worker and professor at the University at Buffalo School of Social Work, Hughes was on the ground in Boston early Tuesday morning.
By the end of her first day in Boston, she had already helped open a Family Assistance Center that is providing victims and their families a private place to receive updates, learn about resources available to them, and visit with trained Red Cross Disaster Mental Health workers for emotional support.
In addition to the Family Support Center, Hughes and other volunteers with the Disaster Mental Health team have been supporting the victims and their families at various vigils and memorials. Events such as these can be traumatic and emotional for more than just those directly affected, however.
“This really impacted the entire community,” Hughes said. “It’s really going to take a while for life to get back to normal.”
Disaster Mental Health workers have been out in the Boston community, talking to people at locations such as train stations and Boston Common to check on their well-being.
In addition to leading the Disaster Mental Health team, Hughes has gone on local TV to share some tips on coping with stressful situations in the aftermath of the marathon bombings. Thanks to partnerships with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and The Boston Foundation, those tips have also been posted on subway cars throughout the area.
A Red Cross volunteer for over 10 years and the Disaster Mental Health Chair for New York state, Hughes has been lending the experience she has gained serving on responses such as the crash of Flight 3407 in Clarence, N.Y., and the Newtown, Conn., school shootings to support a city she once called home.
“Boston is still healing,” Hughes said. “These things take time.”