Mental health is important at every stage of your life. From childhood and adolescence through adulthood, our experiences heavily impact our emotional, psychological, and social well-being.
American Red Cross disaster mental health volunteers use their professional skills as licensed healthcare providers to deliver hands-on care and education to people who have experienced disasters and emergencies such as Hurricane Idalia, which made landfall in Florida and Georgia, leaving many families devastated. These volunteers work in emergency shelters and on outreach teams as they listen and talk with disaster-impacted clients about their experiences, stress levels, and coping skills.
Joyce Burns has been a Red Cross volunteer for five years and traveled from Connecticut for her sixth deployment to provide comfort to families and individuals impacted by Idalia. Burns works directly with families, including children, to navigate through the emotions that come with such loss.
“I think it’s important for people to get back to their norm as soon as they can but to also understand that it is okay to grieve after a loss even if no one died. Losing your home, your car, [and] your valuables is a loss that can bring grief and that is okay,” Burns said.
Carol M. Jaxson-Jager, Ph.D is a retired counselor and speech and hearing therapist and was inspired to join the Red Cross after working closely with the Department of Defense during Hurricane Katrina. She deployed to Tallahassee, Florida to assist with the disaster response for Hurricane Idalia with the Disaster Health Services unit as a Disaster Mental Health provider. Carol also assisted the Disaster Cycle Services team with feeding and distributing supplies. Her biggest takeaway from this operation was “driving around the neighborhood, going door-to-door handing out pamphlets and talking to people in distress.”
When asked about a piece of advice she’d give affected people she came across she said, “If you’re healthy enough to be talking to me, the fact that we’re talking means you’re willing to move forward.”
Thousands of people in the Southeast face a long road ahead to recovery as they continue cleaning up the devastation left behind by Hurricane Idalia. Recovery not only involves the physical aspects, but mental and emotional as well. There are several ways you can help to recover those affected by Idalia. For more information, visit redcross.org/volunteer