Green Cross Academy of Traumatology moves headquarters to Regent
When a devastating natural disaster or other tragedy strikes, the emotional toll can be overwhelming. Humanitarian organizations like the Red Cross and Operation Blessing help people deal with their immediate physical needs, but often the loss creates psychological challenges that linger long after the initial crisis has subsided.
Last spring, Regent University became the headquarters for the Green Cross Academy of Traumatology, an international humanitarian-assistance organization with a focus on helping people in psychological crisis, as a result of large-scale traumatic events. The organization, now led by Benjamin Keyes, Ph.D., Ed.D. and School of Psychology & Counseling professor, was created to help in times of crisis, and, at the same time to train first responders in mental health support.
The academy originated in 1997 under Charles R. Figley, Ph.D., following the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. According to Keyes, over the years, Green Cross has responded to almost every major trauma that has hit the United States and its close neighbors, including 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and more recently, Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey and the mudslides in Oso, Washington.
Officially turned over to Regent in May 2014, the Green Cross is housed under the university’s Center for Trauma Studies. While the center was created expressly for Regent students, staff and alumni, the Green Cross maintains international assistance opened broadly to traumatologists and compassion fatigue service providers.
“Now, we are hoping to do a lot of new research with Green Cross and their deployments, such as looking at the reaction to trauma and resiliency levels,” Keyes explains. “We have the opportunity to piggyback on important areas, all housed here at Regent.”
From a researcher’s perspective, linking the work of Green Cross and Regent brings additional value. “We can get all necessary documents reviewed pretty rapidly by our human subjects committee, and within a short period of time we can actually do research while addressing a crisis event,” Keyes says. “That’s something that is very rare. It’s usually after the fact, in anecdotal stories, rather than actual happenings as they are going on.”
Under the new Trauma Center – Green Cross partnership, Keyes sees unlimited potential in equipping people to care for those in crisis: “We are training both church volunteers and professional clinicians who serve alongside first responders in compassion fatigue. We are teaching people how to take care of themselves in times of crisis and disaster, and how to volunteer effectively with survivors on the street. It’s a beautiful system of care.”
Although Green Cross is a secular organization, Keyes is quick to note that it has, at its very heart, a Christian mission: “This collaboration offers the opportunity for our students to do the purest form of ministry and outreach — to be aware and be there for hurting people. I have a background in counseling but also in ministry.”
With a tone of earnestness he adds, “Outreach is so important, to be with people, to connect with people, to serve people.You don’t make changes in people’s lives unless you’re willing to be where they are and go through the experience with them, and that’s what opens doors to any kind of Christian ministry anyway. It’s not the words. It’s the actions. People have to see that.”