To volunteer as a disaster health or mental health worker start here:
Health & Mental Health Volunteers Needed | American Red Cross
What is different about volunteering with the Red Cross?
Be patient and flexible. Situations in disaster change rapidly and service delivery needs are fluid. You may be asked to work at one site providing one type of service and then be switched to another site within a short period of time. 90% of Red Cross workers are volunteers just like you. You won’t have an office. Most disaster health and mental health work is done in non-traditional settings, like shelters and service centers. You may be providing support out in the community. Disaster Health Services uses a community health RN-led model to support individuals and communities with disaster-related unmet health needs.
o Helping people feel safe and secure o Obtaining food and water o Addressing physical health needs (e.g., first aid, medications) o Connecting to family, friends, and other social support networks.
Disaster Mental Health provides non-traditional mental health services.
o Psychological first aid, triage, crisis intervention, assessment and basic support o Early intervention is primarily focused on assisting disaster survivors and response workers in meeting their most basic needs. o Helping people feel safe and secure o Obtaining food and water o Connecting to family, friends, and other social support networks o Psychotherapy is not appropriate
The work is very rewarding …. And very frustrating. You’re working with people who have
immediate needs for physical & emotional support, food, shelter and other basics. The most crucial need is information, which you often don’t have because the situation is constantly changing. We do the best we can with the limited resources we have.
Why do I need special training?
The Red Cross has a specific role in disaster response which is different from the regular work of most health and mental health professionals. Training is needed to understand this role. In order to minimize frustration, it helps to understand the disaster response system and organization of the Red Cross. For Disaster Health Services volunteers
Most direct health care interventions are not appropriate in the early aftermath of disaster, but your specialized skills and experience can be helpful in identifying those who are at risk for longer-term complications.
For Disaster Mental Health volunteers:
What if I’m already a trauma specialist? Most trauma interventions are not appropriate in the early aftermath of disaster, but your specialized training can be helpful in identifying those who are at risk for longer-term complications.