Sheila O'Neill


“This just shows how the things we do outside of our own paid professions can contribute to our preparedness at work.”

New Bern, North Carolina - July, 2020

I didn’t realize when I trained as a disaster responder with the American Red Cross how much of that training would become relevant during COVID-19. That, and the fact that I’m a trained instructor with Community Emergency Response Teams, as well as disaster psychology/ psychological first aid/mental health first aid trained. This just shows how the things we do outside our own paid professions can contribute to our preparedness at work. As a Service Coordinator for Volunteers of America at The Meadows Apartments, I felt fully prepared when the pandemic hit.

My training in psychological and mental health first aid has been helpful in ensuring that I can keep our residents calm and make sure they don’t feel alone and isolated. Weekly phone calls to check on each resident provide a way to maintain important communication channels. We’ve also welcomed residents to come outside on their patios to participate in relaxing stretching activities with calming breaths to meditation music. This provides a level of distanced socialization and helps to self-regulate stress, while also teaching them ways to do relaxation exercises on their own in their apartments and to stay physically active in their apartments.

Our residents at The Meadows are working together with us to contribute a sense of safety and security while trying to maintain a sense of normalcy during abnormal events that have arisen. As Dwight D. Eisenhower once stated, “planning is everything.”