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Tornado-Scarred States Receive American Red Cross Health Services
Date:2/7/2008

Red Cross Volunteers are Finding Health and Mental Health Top the List of Needs

WASHINGTON, Feb. 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Following one of the largest series of tornadoes in decades, many people across the south are beginning the long process toward recovery. The Red Cross continues to help provide meals, shelter and clean up supplies to those affected. But for many people, the most welcome help comes from Red Cross health and mental health workers -- these compassionate volunteers lend physical and emotional support as residents struggle to cope with the devastation surrounding them.

Health services workers focus on providing emergency first aid and evaluating the health care needs of individuals and communities following a disaster. Red Cross mental health workers tend to the emotional needs of disaster victims. In fact, for many people, their first contact with the Red Cross following a disaster is with one of these workers, though they carry no special identification. Mental health and health services volunteers reach out to disaster victims through home or hospital visits and can also be found working in Red Cross shelters, service centers and emergency aid stations.

"We literally walk house to house after a disaster, looking for people who may need first aid or some other health related services," explained Eileen Losi, R.N., a volunteer with Red Cross Disaster Health Services. "Right now we are gathering our licensed healthcare workers, such as nurses, licensed practical nurses, physicians and paramedics, to work in our shelters, and to conduct these visits throughout the impacted communities."

The Red Cross encourages disaster victims to reach out to the Red Cross for help. "Anyone who experiences a disaster can be affected in some way, whether directly or indirectly through location, loved ones or exposure to media coverage," said Rob Yin, Manager, Disaster Health and Mental Health Services. "Attending to the mental health needs of those affected is an important part of the larger Red Cross disaster response."

The Red Cross offers the following tips for those dealing with the emotional impact of this disaster:

Tips for Dealing with Stress:

-- Take a few deep breaths to relax.

-- Count to ten.

-- Prioritize your tasks.

-- Tend to necessary activities and try to establish a routine.

-- Take time to assess your physical health and seek medical care when appropriate.

-- Make an extra effort to listen and talk to the people around you.

Tips for Helping Children:

Disasters come in many forms and affect children and adults differently. Children take their cues from their parents and other adults. When these important people in their lives cope well in a disaster, children are more likely to respond positively. Adults can help children cope with the recent tornadoes by following some general steps:

-- Encourage children to talk and listen to their concerns.

-- Take time to provide factual information about the disaster and your plans for ensuring their ongoing safety.

-- Take care of yourself so you can take care of your children.

-- Offer them a sense of protection. Speak with confidence about the situation, and work with them to build up their sense of feeling protected. A good way to do this is to create a disaster supplies kit and a family communications plan.

-- Help your children reconnect with people around them, family, friends and schoolmates. This connection can help strengthen your child's sense of safety.

-- Re-establish daily routines for work, school, play, meals and rest.

-- Monitor and limit your children's exposure to news coverage of the disaster. Children may think the event is happening over and over again when they see or hear repeated reports and images.

Available Resources:

The American Red Cross offers the following resources to help adults, parents, caregivers and older children maintain a healthy state of mind when dealing with unexpected events:

Maintaining a Healthy State of Mind - The Preparedness Today website was developed in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide information about the different reactions people can expect and how they can help themselves and others cope with unexpected events. The site is accessible through http://www.redcross.org.

All American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. You can help the victims of thousands of disasters across the country each year, disasters like these February tornadoes, by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, which enables the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to victims of disaster. The American Red Cross honors donor intent. If you wish to designate your donation to a specific disaster please do so at the time of your donation. Call 1-800-REDCROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P. O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting http://www.redcross.org."


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SOURCE American Red Cross
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