Students came from as far away as Eagle Pass for the disaster training given Saturday at the Johnson City First United Methodist Church.
The subject was “Spiritual and Emotional Care” — how to help survivors get through the emotional trauma of a disaster — but the skills will be applicable not only in large incidents but in lesser, everyday crises such as house fires, job loss or a death in the family.
“It sounds like a religious course, and in some ways it is,” said Pastor Sid Spiller of the First UMC, “but it other ways it isn’t. Psychological and emotional trauma are as real as physical injuries, and just as common after disasters. We need to be as ready to help with those as the EMS is ready to help a person with a broken arm.”
A big way to help is to show survivors that there’s a pattern of emotional response after an incident: a quick dip of shock, a short- lived resurgence of confidence, and then a long descent toward depression as it becomes evident recovery isn’t going to come quickly.
“Just being able to see on the chart where they are and to realize that everyone else is moving along the same emotional path is tremendously helpful to survivors,” explained instructor Mary Gaudreau, of Guthrie, Okla. “How fast someone moves along that path is different from person to person. How deep that second dip is and how quickly they climb back up varies, too, but we know we can help people through it better and faster.”
“We also know there are typical ways children and teenagers react to incidents, so we teach signs and signals to watch for, and things parents can do to help a child recover from the shock of an incident.”
Gaudreau came to Johnson City for the United Methodist Committee on Relief, UMCOR, the denomination’s international disaster relief agency. In addition to sending experts, supplies and cash to disaster areas from Missouri to Myanmar, UMCOR provides training to churches and local organizations like the Blanco County Disaster Response Group.
The Blanco County group and local Methodist church were original hosts for the training, but it quickly grew to something much larger.
The class became basic training for a spiritual and emotional care team for the South West Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church, covering hundreds of churches from the Rio Grande Valley to Central Texas, and from near Houston to Big Bend.
“This group will be the core of a Spiritual and Emotional Care Team”, according to Gene Hileman of San Antonio, disaster response coordinator for the conference. “We’ll recruit and train more members, and call on them to help survivors of disasters anywhere in this part of Texas...and maybe beyond.”
Hileman said he has scheduled another “basic training” class for San Antonio in October.
Members of the Blanco County Disaster Response Group who took the training will continue to sharpen and expand their skills so they also can help their neighbors here at home when needed.
The Blanco County group’s next training will be an all-day class in first aid, CPR, CPR for infants and children, and the use of AEDs, taught by the American Red Cross and held on Saturday, July 19th.
For information on the local disaster group, first aid-CPR class, or spiritual and emotional care training, call JoAnn Routh at 868-0808.