DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Hundreds of volunteers, some from as far as the state of Washington, are in Dayton to help the community rebuild. However, officials are saying these people should be careful to consider their own mental health as they work.
Red Cross leaders say more than 600 volunteers are working 12-hour shifts daily to offer relief to those who need it. According to a disaster mental health expert that can take an emotional toll.
“[The volunteers] see how distraught the people are and how many things are going wrong for them and it has an impact on them. [Some] find that they are crying with their clients,” said Frank Maher, the disaster mental health manager with the Red Cross.
Cory Paul, executive director of the Red Cross Dayton chapter says over the last two weeks, the organization is creating opportunities for humor like a photo booth and memes placed around the headquarters. There is also a staff wellness hotline.
“[The hotline] goes directly to one of our mental health volunteers that [volunteers] can talk to and [share]what they’ve experienced,” said Paul.
There are also opportunities to get out of the office when there is a work break.
“We have different events throughout the day that volunteers can do, like chair yoga or go to the art museum,” said Paul. These activities have been offered by partners with the Red Cross as a gift to the volunteers for their service.
Staying hydrated, eating healthily, avoiding fast food and taking breaks when needed are all suggested methods for volunteers to stay mentally healthy and avoid emotional exhaustion.
Paul shared this advice for those attempting to overcome the mental and emotional toll they’ve endured through their volunteer service:
“This is a marathon, not a sprint so just try to take care of yourself every day. Making sure that you are the best volunteer or the best staff person that you can be so you can then give your full talents and your full care to the community.”