NEIA Red Cross
A Mental Health Video Mission
By Scarlett Wedergren, American Red Cross Volunteer
“We were able to give information from our hearts. We needed people to know that they weren’t alone,” Stewart Coulson, Red Cross Disaster Mental Health volunteer.
When the COVID-19 pandemic caused entire communities across the nation to shut down in early March 2020, isolation, stress and worry followed for many. A team of disaster mental health volunteers from the Nebraska-Iowa Region of the Red Cross, led by Stewart Coulson, was there to help.
Peter Teahen, an external relations volunteer with the Red Cross, and Coulson worked together to provide people with extra support and resources during this trying time. They thought a video project would, “allow the incredible team of Red Cross disaster mental health professionals to speak to people directly.”
The team wanted to tailor the work they’ve been doing—well before the worldwide spread of the virus—to the facts of the ongoing public health crisis and create something worthwhile to people in this moment. In April and May, Coulson and other mental health volunteers in Iowa and Nebraska created around 25 videos, each 60-90 seconds long, highlighting important mental health themes. Topics included prioritizing physical health, reducing news exposure, staying connected to spirituality and maintaining healthy habits. Volunteers also translated the videos into Spanish to reach a larger audience.
Watch the videos:
Coulson has received encouraging responses from the videos. Many say they are grateful that there is an organization that individuals can rely on when they really need help.
The videos became close to Coulson’s heart and he hopes millions will eventually see and benefit from these messages.
“There are so many people in the world who feel alone, who feel like there's nothing they can do, nowhere they can turn,” he said. “The Red Cross changes that for them.”
Coulson’s favorite video is, “Relieving Stress: Talking with Your Kids,” because it particularly resonates with his love for youth. However, he points out, “The videos all kind of became my children.”
Red Cross Mental Health Service has become Coulson’s life work. While a school counselor in 2005, he was recruited to assist in Hurricane Rita recovery in Beaumont, Texas. “People were exhausted, and they were needing mental health specifically for volunteers,” Coulson said.
That experience would forever connect Coulson to the Red Cross. Since then, he’s been part of approximately 25 more deployments around the country. Coulson also assists in casework after home fires in the region. Why does he continue to volunteer? It’s because he’s able to take care of people the way he would want his family to be taken care of. Coulson has helped so many through his deployments and now with this video project.
“The Red Cross has enabled people to know that mental health is an important part of recovery and healing,” Coulson said.
Not even a pandemic can change that.