The tornadoes that hit Oklahoma—first in Shawnee, then Moore—were devastating to the people who live there. Some lost loved ones, suffered injuries and lost everything they own. They are under extreme stress, and the American Red Cross has disaster mental health workers on hand to help people cope with the horrific situation many find themselves in after the storms.
MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES The Red Cross recognizes that people impacted by the disaster may be anxious, depressed or agitated by their situation. That is why the Red Cross disaster relief operation includes licensed mental health specialists to help people cope with their new reality. Disaster workers in Red Cross shelters are trained in psychological first aid, but Red Cross mental health teams go a step further, monitoring the emotional pulse of those in the shelter—both residents and workers.
“Disasters can be extremely stressful, and this is especially true for people in Oklahoma, where communities have seen several major tornadoes in recent years,” said Valerie Cole, senior associate of Disaster Mental Health Services at the Red Cross. ”It’s important that people reach out for help when they need it, and to support others who may be having trouble coping with these tragedies.”
STEPS TO HELP COPE People in Oklahoma may have a variety of reactions in the aftermath of the storms. Fear concerning safety for themselves and their family—along with anger, confusion, shock, disbelief, sadness and grief—these are all normal feelings associated with the experience of the disaster.
Reactions like these may appear in different ways, not only in the way someone feels, but in the way they think and what they think about; their sleeping habits, how they go about daily living; and the way they interact and get along with others. Children and the elderly are especially at risk and require special attention. Here are a few steps to help cope after the storm:
DISASTER DISTRESS HOTLINE You can call the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs’ to 66746 for free, 24/7 counseling or support. This toll-free, multilingual crisis support service is available to those who are experiencing emotional distress.
HOW TO HELP The Oklahoma tornado response is large, involving several communities where tornadoes struck over several days. Officials estimate about 1,000 homes in Moore alone were damaged, along with businesses, schools and the medical center. You can help people affected by disasters like tornadoes, floods and other crises by making a donation to American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Make a donation by visiting www.redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.