Red Cross responds to COVID-19 crisis with new online Psychological First Aid training and community outreach

By Jen Astion

The American Red Cross is responding to mental health issues created by the coronavirus epidemic with a new Psychological First Aid online training, community outreach and online resources.

The new Psychological First Aid training explores specific concerns created by the COVID-19 crisis. In addition to guidance on helping people in a disaster, this course covers the pandemic’s impact on children, family members of essential workers, economic uncertainty, and disruptions in the workplace. The training is free, available online, and takes about an hour to complete.

Dan Mosley

“I strongly value Psychological First Aid for everyone,” said Dan Mosley, American Red Cross, Disaster Mental Health (DMH) Manager. “I have been a long-time fan of Psychological First Aid as a means to empower each of us to use existing skills in supporting everyone with whom we come in contact. Offering comfort by being a good listener helps validate each other’s thoughts and feelings and value as a person,” he explained.

Mosley, a volunteer with the Disaster Mental Health team in King County and the Northwest Region, is a licensed mental health professional as are all DMH volunteers. Among other responsibilities, Dan is a member of one of the King County Disaster Action Teams, assisting those affected by small and large disasters.

“The Red Cross has included mental health support as a vital piece of response efforts for many years. Recognition of the need for emotional support for Red Cross workers led to the creation of the Disaster Mental Health activity in 1993,” said Mosley.

Red Cross DMH volunteers also offer training for community groups coping with COVID-19. Mosley has recently given presentations to agency personnel who work with immigrants who are immuno-compromised and significantly marginalized as well as an agency who serves developmentally disabled adults.  Working with special populations further complicates the usual stressors related to the pandemic. 

“It is more difficult to avoid the evidence of significant distress around us during this pandemic. Our lives have been upended and our sense of security and stability has been seriously disrupted. It is healthy to pause and recognize what very real emotional impact this has had on each of us,” Mosley said. Mosley also discussed these themes in an interview on the Seattle Channel.

For individuals facing new stressors during the pandemic, Mosley recommends reviewing a list of tips for Building Resiliency compiled by Red Cross Disaster Mental Health Supervisor Wren Hudgins.

The pandemic may help people become more comfortable talking about mental health. “I believe we are all more aware of mental health issues during this time because the uncertainty and insecurities around the pandemic create additional stressors and more intensity of stressors than most of us are used to dealing with,” said Mosley.

Katie Mahoney, Program Manager at the National Alliance on Mental Health’s Seattle chapter, has seen more attention in the media to mental health issues during the pandemic. “I think that more support and openness around discussions of mental health can only be a good thing,” she said. “I am all for opening up the conversation.”

American Red Cross Mental Health Resources

The new Psychological First Aid training explores specific concerns created by the COVID-19 crisis.

To schedule a presentation by a Red Cross mental Health Team volunteer in the Northwest Region, please contact Diane Hermanson at northwestregiondmh@redcross.org.

Watch excerpts from the interview with Dan Mosley on the Seattle Channel: Coping with COVID-19. This segment focuses on acknowledging anxiety instead of distracting ourselves. “Taking care ourselves is the first step in taking of those around you.” https://vimeo.com/400138987/4929ecea73

In another segment of Mosley’s interview, he suggests showing some vulnerability when talking with a child about the pandemic. “Acknowledge the child’s fears.” https://vimeo.com/400137883/e90835334d

Additional Resources

Washington State Coronavirus Response (COVID-19): Find mental and emotional well-being tips and resources for adults, children, teens, service members, LBTQ+ individuals and more.
https://coronavirus.wa.gov/information-for/you-and-your-family/mental-and-emotional-well-being

NAMI Seattle (National Alliance on Mental Illness) offers support groups, public presentations, classes, and trainings online through Zoom and other videoconferencing platforms. https://namiseattle.org/

My Epidemic Story, A Guided Activity Workbook for Children, Families, Teachers and Caregivers from the Children’s Psychological Health Center, Inc., includes writing and drawing prompts, safety tips and more. Link to guided activity workbooks.

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