Red Cross Providing Emotional Support After Okla. Tornadoes

Emotional Support

Many families have been affected by this horrific storm and Red Cross Spiritual Care Teams are working with partners to comfort those affected. Photo by Talia Frenkel/American Red Cross.

It’s important that people reach out for help when they need it...

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:

  • Take care of your safety. Find a safe place to stay and make sure your physical health needs and those of your family are taken care of. Seek medical attention if necessary.
  • Eat healthy. The Red Cross has food, water and snacks available in the affected communities.
  • Try to get some rest. Even when there is so much to do, it’s important to rest.
  • Stay connected with family and friends.
  • Be patient with yourself and those around you. Recognize that everyone is stressed and may need time to get their feelings and thoughts in order.
  • Set priorities. Tackle tasks in small steps.
  • Gather information about assistance and resources available to help you and your loved ones.
  • Reach out when you need support.
  • For children—allow them to feel upset and encourage them to express their feelings and thoughts.
  • Return to a daily routine as much as possible.
  • 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, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

    About the American Red Cross:
    The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.