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FSU Research Program Seeking Volunteers To Help Hurricane Michael Survivors Cope With Stress

Florida State University researchers are looking for volunteers to help Hurricane Michael survivors adjust to life more than two years after the disaster.

“In some of these regions, people are still trying to recover mentally, physically, maybe even spiritually from this event,” said Brenda Alvarado, a researcher in the university’s Center for Translational Behavioral Science, during a recent virtual meeting with the North Florida Inland Long Term Recovery Group.

The university has launched the Skills for Life Adjustment and Resilience or SOLAR program to help survivors learn stress management techniques and develop healthy eating and sleep habits.

Some of the most common mental health issues natural disaster survivors experience include substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and major depression, according to a presentation about the SOLAR program given in 2019.

“Obviously COVID-19 has only added stress to all of this,” Alvarado said. “We have been trying to reach out to different organizations to share the project and see if any individuals would be willing to sign up and participate.”

Alvarado says volunteers must complete a six-week online training program. At the end, they’ll begin to work with people in the community under the supervision of a clinical psychologist. No prior mental health experience is necessary to volunteer. Each coach will receive a $200 stipend.

The program wouldn’t provide people with formal mental health treatment, she said. “If we know that someone might need professional help, then we would be happy to refer them to someone else.”

Volunteers must live in the Panhandle, she said. Those interested in applying may email Alvarado at brenda.echeverri@med.fsu.edu or call 850-644-4200.

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