By Ben Horn, Red Cross Volunteer
World Mental Health Day is observed annually on October 10th and is supported by the World Health Organization in an effort to raise awareness of mental health issues and mobilize efforts in support of mental wellness. At the American Red Cross, supporting the mental well-being of clients and community members remains a top priority.
As part of its efforts to alleviate human suffering, the American Red Cross of the National Capital & Greater Chesapeake Region supports U.S. service members, veterans and their families. This includes facilitating free Reconnection Workshops, where service members, veterans, and their families are invited to participate.
Chris Duffley, Regional Director of Red Cross Services to Armed Forces and International Services says that these workshops are critical for those who have served, especially given the rigorous expectations of military life.
“A stigma around seeking mental health treatment remains among many in the community, and there can be a fear of repercussions in regards to one’s security clearance, ability to deploy, and the ability to continue to serve,” says Duffley. “Fortunately, there are non-profit partners like the American Red Cross, that are working to increase access to care and reduce stigma.”
On Tuesday, October 19th, the National Capital & Greater Chesapeake Region will host a virtual Stress Solutions Workshop, to help military members, veterans, and their families learn stress management techniques—including practicing relaxation techniques and learning to think about stress in new ways.
Mental health is also a priority for the Red Cross during times of local and large-scale disaster response efforts—though the internal toll on individuals during a crisis is not always apparent.
“Depending on age, when the disaster took place, and where the disaster took place, you may find fear and anxiety, hopelessness, irritability, terror and just feeling numb,” says Dr. Joseph Prewitt-Diaz, a Psychologist and Disaster Mental Health Volunteer with the National Capital & Greater Chesapeake Red Cross.
As a volunteer focusing on mental health, Diaz has served patients at many large-scale Red Cross disaster relief efforts, throughout the last half century. And while Diaz contributes professional expertise in times of crisis, he stresses the importance of community in the healing process.
“Building community capacity to prevent and heal trauma must become an equal priority with individual trauma treatment and support.”
The Red Cross partners with government and other non-profit organizations to aid people both physically and mentally – and especially when they are their most vulnerable. And none of these efforts could be accomplished without the support of trained volunteers, like Diaz.
Says Diaz, “I don’t remember a day in my life that I have not served in one way or another. I have an immense pleasure in assisting the most vulnerable and getting the best gift of all—a smile.”