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'It's Called Psychological First Aid': Local Red Cross Volunteers Helping Out With Hurricane Dorian Relief, Both Physically And Mentally

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- All Floridians and those in the Carolinas can do is watch and prepare as the big, slow-moving Hurricane Dorian moves up the coast. The waiting is taking its toll on some as the hours of exhaustive warnings have stretched into days.

Eighteen Red Cross volunteers from our area are already helping out with disaster relief in parts of the country that have been hit the hardest. But Eyewitness News spoke with one volunteer who's being deployed Wednesday to aid in mental health efforts.

Hurricane Dorian battered the Bahamas for more than a day, leaving total devastation in its path. As Dorian moves towards Florida's east coast, American Red Cross workers are preparing to be deployed.

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"We are there to help people adjust and recover. That's our whole goal," Red Cross Disaster Mental Health Manager Danell Stoppel said.

American Red Cross of Eastern Pennsylvania has deployed 18 of its workers to assist with the Hurricane Dorian response in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.

Stoppel will be deploying to Raleigh, North Carolina Wednesday to aid victims and volunteers with their mental health.

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"It's called psychological first aid. Basically we aren't counseling, we're helping people to adjust and recover," he said.

A normal deployment lasts for two weeks, working 12-hour days.

"People need to talk about it to make it real. Unlike other therapies where you don't encourage talking about the same incident, disaster mental health requires you to be present and many people need to talk about it. It becomes real when you talk about it," Stoppel said.

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Thankfully, workers aren't dealing with disaster areas that took a direct hit, but they say they're ready to give back.

"It's really listening. People heal themselves, we just help them," Stoppel said.

There are more than 12,000 Red Cross shelters in place for those needing assistance from Hurricane Dorian.

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