“This one hit close to home. I used to live on the Marathon route,” said Cris Ratiner, a clinical psychologist who was one of 25 new volunteers from in and around the Boston area taking a Foundations of Disaster Mental Health class five days after the Marathon bombings. “It’s awful that something like this could interrupt such a display of joyful humanity.”
“Years ago, there was a huge fire at my apartment, and the Red Cross was amazing,” said psychologist and social worker Joyce Maguire Pavao. “Later, I stayed at a Red Cross shelter after a hurricane forced us to evacuate. So volunteering with them was always in the back of my mind.” Maguire Pavao started the process of becoming a Disaster Mental Health volunteer after watching the bombings on TV. “There was such trauma, and the invisible injuries don’t always get as much attention,” she continued. “It’s very helpful to have people with our experience to help people get back to normal life.”
Trained Disaster Mental Health volunteers continue to provide emotional and spiritual support at the Family Assistance Center and various vigils and memorials across the Boston area. However, dramatic events such as the Marathon bombings are difficult for the entire community. Shortly after completing their Red Cross Disaster Mental Health training, a group of these new volunteers walked through Boston Common to offer support for some of the residents there.
“One woman stopped to talk, and you could tell she was angry,” said new volunteer Mabel Lam, a clinical psychologist who serves as President of the Massachusetts Psychological Association’s Disaster Response Network. “She just really needed to talk to someone about it, even if she didn’t realize it.”
These new Disaster Mental Health volunteers will help the Red Cross provide this vital emotional support in the Boston area for years to come, but their work to help those affected by the Marathon bombings is just getting started. “I worry about what’s going to happen when the kids return to school on Monday,” Lam said. “Everyone is going to have a lot of different emotions to cope with, and I’m thrilled there are organizations like the Red Cross here to help.”