Virtual Family Assistance Center Offers Support During Pandemic
By Scarlett Wedergren, American Red Cross Volunteer
During this global pandemic, the American Red Cross wants to be sure individuals are aware of the plethora of tools available to persevere through these difficult times. The Virtual Family Assistance Center (VFAC), a virtual team of specially-trained volunteers, was created to support those struggling with loss and grief due to COVID-19.
Many volunteers are involved with the center, including licensed mental health professionals, licensed health care professionals and spiritual care volunteers.
Currently, Red Cross chapters in 30 states across the country have created local VFAC services. The virtual nature of the program allows help and support for people from any state, county, territory or tribal nation. Hotlines exist for callers to speak to a professional for help with a medical question, disaster distress, suicide prevention, behavioral health or spiritual care. The conversations are completely confidential and free.
According to Jan Jordan, a Red Cross Disaster Mental Health volunteer for the Nebraska-Iowa Region, the VFAC lists resources nationally and locally in Nebraska and Iowa, including Emotional Support and Grief Counseling, Faith-Based Resources, Funeral Information, Legal Resources, Financial Information Services, and Veterans’ Assistance.
There are also two free existing online classes available to help foster compassion and support for others during this public health crisis. Classes include “Psychological First Aid: Helping Others in Times of Stress” and “Coping in Today’s World, Psychological First Aid and Resilience for Families, Friends and Neighbors.” They are taught by mental health professionals with trained skills in coping with stress.
These classes help community members and groups learn ways to increase their psychological resilience and become stronger. They introduce the principles of psychological first aid and guidelines for when to refer to a mental health worker. Participants engage in practice exercises and a review of the course content. Instructors also provide information on how to provide psychological first aid (PFA) for adults and children. Links to request these courses can be found on the VFAC website.
Jordan reminds everyone that these services are so important during these times because volunteers provide unconditional support and someone to talk to about their grief.
Please visit the VFAC website to access all services, information, and referrals. All support is provided virtually and is completely confidential and free. For individuals without internet access, call toll-free at 833-492-0094 between 8 a.m.-8 p.m. to speak with a trained Red Cross volunteer in English or Spanish. Callers in immediate crisis should call 911 or a hotline such as the Suicide Prevention Lifeline.