American Red Cross volunteer Martha Crosby receives a warm hug from Jean Farmer, 85, who survived the devastating tornado that left her home in ruins. Tuscaloosa, AL. (Photo: Talia Frenkel/American Red Cross)
Recent tragic events—such as the stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair—remind us how important emotional support is after a disaster. In the days and weeks following a crisis, attention to mental health becomes important for survivors and emergency responders alike.
The American Red Cross of Greater Indianapolis sent more than a dozen volunteers and employees to the scene of the collapse in Indianapolis to help support emergency workers searching for missing people. The local Red Cross also kept their chapter office open for friends and family searching for loved ones.
The Red Cross Disaster Mental Health program began in 1992, prompted in part by the crash landing of United Airlines Flight 232 at the Sioux City, Iowa, airport in July 1989. The deadly accident took more than 100 lives, but 184 passengers and crew survived.
After the Sioux City crash, the local Red Cross chapter partnered with Jerry Jacobs and Randy Quevillon, licensed psychologists from the nearby University of South Dakota, to provide mental health support to survivors and disaster responders.
Jane Morgan, then Red Cross lead for Disaster Health Services in the Midwest, took away from that experience the knowledge that the Red Cross Disaster Mental Health program needed to be structured so that all disaster survivors and responders would have access to emotional support.
Today, the Disaster Mental Health cadre stands at approximately 4,000 people, and represents the largest and most highly credentialed disaster mental health response force in the nation. These workers respond during some of the country’s most difficult times, including this spring’s devastating tornadoes and floods.
You can find information on taking care of emotional health after a disaster on Redcross.org. If you’re interested in becoming a disaster volunteer, please contact the American Red Cross-Dallas Area Chapter.