Red Cross offering classes on coping with stress

Published 7:01 am Sunday, August 30, 2020

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In hopes of supporting people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Red Cross is offering two virtual classes to help people cope with stress and increase psychological resilience.

The first class, “Psychological First Aid: Helping Others in Times of Stress,” is meant for partner agencies such as human services personnel, medical personnel, first responders, educators, coroners and other professional caregivers.

Tonya Peterson, recovery manager for the Minnesota-Dakotas region of the American Red Cross, said trained volunteers are set up in each region across the country to teach the course and can set up a time and date to work with groups or organizations through an online platform. There was one training in the area in June, and then the training requests have since started increasing, she said.

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Rose Olmsted, one of the volunteer trainers from Albert Lea, said people in the classes she has taught are expressing concerns with things such as safety for themselves and their families, how to interact with children with protective gear and how to deal with people who aren’t abiding by safety requirements, to name a few.

“There’s nontraditional things they have to do in today’s world with COVID that they have never been asked to do,” Olmsted said.

She said the class focuses on resiliency and self care and how to deal with the anxiety they may have at this time. She said she incorporates information from the Minnesota Department of Health and other sources into her presentations. The training lasts approximately two to three hours in length and can be adjusted for local needs.

Olmsted said the class would be a great resource for the staff of any business or organization, ranging from nursing homes and first responders to hospitals, schools and businesses that have had to stay open during the shutdown.

“I can’t imagine any business right now that is having to deal with the public — how they deal with the people and also how they deal with themselves,” she said.

The second class, “Coping in Today’s World, Psychological First Aid and Resilience for Families, Friends and Neighbors,” is geared toward community groups such as churches, sports teams and civic organizations.

Olmsted said many people have felt anxiety during the pandemic, and noted she, herself, uses two meditations each morning.

“I’m not afraid to tell people how I have to practice and use psychological first aid for my own daily living,” Olmsted said.

She shared she has a relative who was recently diagnosed with COVID-19, and who has since recovered. He has experienced friends in college who will not welcome him into their homes or who don’t want to go on trips with him.

“It hasn’t been easy for him to experience some of that rejection,” she said. He also is scared about the long-term effects the virus may have.

Peterson said the Red Cross has received good feedback from organizations that have gone through the training thus far.

The Red Cross has also developed a Virtual Family Assistance Center, where people who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 can visit to access programs, information, referrals and services to support families in need. People without the internet can call 833-492-0094.

“It started coming together in April as numbers were increasing,” Peterson said. “The team decided we needed to provide support and provide it virtually.”

Peterson said the call center has people trained in disaster mental health services and spiritual care services who help callers.

She said many people who call have experienced an interrupted grieving process, and callers can help them with resources and other concerns.

Services are provided for free, and all information shared is confidential.

For more information about services available to families who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 or about signing up for a training for a business or community organization, visit