For nearly two years, the Red Cross of South Carolina has been offering Resiliency Programs at MacDougall Correctional Institution in Ridgeland, SC.
“This is freedom. For two hours you forget that you are in prison,” said James, an inmate at MacDougall who is also a veteran. For privacy reasons the Red Cross is not using his last name.
James is one of several veterans that have participated in the Service to Armed Forces Resiliency Programs.
“The Red Cross classes offer people a chance to come here and relax, they feel safe. They can look at ways of dealing with their anger and deescalating their stress levels,” James said.
The classes focus on differing topics such as Effective Communications, Stress Solutions, Trauma Talk, Emotional Grit and Defusing Anger.
“It teaches you relaxation techniques. We have a lot of people at the prison that are still dealing with anger issues. They are trying to work through crisis management in the dorm and how to get along with each other,” said James. “Here, we learn that we have a lot more in common than we have which is different.”
The classes are facilitated by licensed behavioral health professionals and are free to attend. For James, what he has learned in these sessions will have an impact long after he is released.
“I know that there is probably going to be someone else around me that is going to be experiencing the same thing and If I can pour into their spirit, it will help build me up. That is something that I will definitely take with me,” said James.
Over the past few weeks, a new Art Therapy program was launched in the prison. These are opportunities for the veterans to express themselves through creating art pieces.
“Art Therapy is a gift because you have people creating. Once again being children and sharing that magic,” said James.
The classes offered are as follows:
- Teaches the skills needed to achieve effective communication styles through non-verbals, seeking clarification, self-reflection, "I" statements and other activities.
Stress Solutions and Trauma Talk
- Teaches stress-management approaches through learning the signs of stress, practicing relaxation techniques, discussing sleep issues, learning to help others heal and more.
- Teaches participants how to recognize signs of depression in themselves and others and offers approaches to build resilience, pursue joy, respond to depression and discuss suicide.
Connecting with Kids
- Teaches common reactions to stress in children, provide practical ways adults can help children cope and offers information on when and how to seek professional support.
- Teaches participants to recognize triggers and reactions and offers ways to respond in the moment and over the long term to defuse anger and reduce emotional responses.
Caregivers of Wounded, III and Injured Service Members and Veterans
- Provides caregivers with ways to reduce isolation, incorporate new identities and build personal wellness plans to achieve a healthy lifestyle and reduce stress.
“As far as resiliency goes, this class has taught us how to grow stronger through one another’s support,” said James.
To learn more about how the Red Cross of South Carolina is helping our military, veterans and their families, visit redcross.org/saf