Give an Hour offering secure and confidential mental health care sessions for Helpouts, Google's new service for getting help over live video
Helpouts by Google is a way for individuals anywhere in the world to connect with experts via live video in a wide range of categories, from computers to cooking to counseling. Within Helpouts, individuals can book on-demand video sessions or schedule sessions in advance. Give an Hour will bring a network of licensed mental health professionals to the platform. "Helpouts' mission is to connect experienced, skilled, passionate people who want to give help to people around the world who need it, which aligns perfectly with Give an Hour's mission of providing free mental health services from a network of licensed mental health professionals donating their time," says Barbara Van Dahlen, founder and president of Give an Hour. Veterans who live where there are no mental health providers or who are physically unable to travel from their homes will now have easy access to mental health care. Helpouts, which supports HIPAA-compliant providers, is confidential and secure and will remove barriers such as geography and mobility, allowing individuals to receive help wherever they live. Helpouts can be accessed 24/7 from a computer or mobile device. "This platform, I believe, will revolutionize the way mental health professionals are able to offer their services," adds Dr. Van Dahlen. "We are proud to be working with Google to refine this innovation," she says. Helpouts is a natural extension of Google's mission. There is a lot of information that is not documented on the web--it's in people's heads, it's informed by personal experiences. We believe Helpouts is an easy and efficient way to bring this kind of information to the world," says Udi Manber, who leads Helpouts for Google. "Our goal is simple: help people help each other. We want to use the convenience and efficiency of the web to enable everyone, no matter where they are or what time it is, to easily connect with someone who can help." As this platform is launched, Give an Hour providers will be available via Helpouts in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, and Washington, D.C., to give services within their state. "Give an Hour is excited to begin this new era in mental health care. Over the coming weeks and months we will be adding more states as we move toward national coverage," notes Dr. Van Dahlen. Google is a proud supporter of the U.S. military veteran community and deeply committed to helping all service members and military spouses make a successful transition to civilian life. GoogleForVeterans.com, youtube.com/veterans, and VetNetHQ.com are some of the many ways its products are helping veterans and military families pursue their goals.
One of Give an Hour’s most experienced volunteers is a mental health and addiction counselor who has been practicing for over fifty years. He has provided mental health care to service members and their families for decades. Besides marital counseling he has helped the local military community address mental illnesses including anxiety, eating disorders, depression, bi-polar disease and schizophrenia.
He says that many of his cases begin with marital discord that comes from the service member being deployed multiple times and then returning home with no mental health support.“I see a fair number of Reservists’ wives who are dealing with issues in their marriage while their husbands are deployed and when they come home. For example they’ll find out about an affair, usually by email. Then everyone involved has to face the reality of who they are and where they are.” He also sees alcohol addiction as a common problem when service members return home. “Alcohol so often compounds the problems reservists with PTSD have when they return from combat,” he explains. “I approach it like pealing an onion. The first layer we need to resolve is the drinking as a way to numb anxiety then we can start working on the PTSD. The sobering up process takes a lot of work and patience on the part of my clients, I can tell you that.”
He works with military service and family members as well as pro bono for Give an Hour. His GAH clients are usually able to “make great progress over a period of ten or so sessions. About 92% of them get the work done in that amount of time.” Besides volunteering for Give an Hour, he volunteers for a hotline for police officers. “Plenty of Reservists and Guard members go from law enforcement to military police work and return to law enforcement after they transition out, so it makes sense for me to work in both employment fields.”
Multiple deployments add to his caseload. “These kids are deployed as MP’s to guard bases and highways time and time again. They become hardened. One of my clients was a young man who had carried on a courtship via phone and email for 18 months deployment. When he returned and wanted to get married, his fiancée had second thoughts because he had changed so much. He was a big guy, around 300 pounds and any time he felt she was challenging him, he just exploded. At first he didn’t trust me because he thought I was going to be a ‘touchy feely’ counselor, but eventually I worked with him then with both of them and they made some real growth.”
This volunteer is devoted to his Give an Hour work. “We have these skills sets and must apply them to help those who have served us. They often return to tumultuous lives. They need our help.”
Give an Hour and the Army National Guard: Addressing Mental Health Needs of Our Country’s Defenders
Give an Hour (GAH) is honored to announce that we have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Army National Guard to address the pressing mental health needs of its members and their families.
Studies have shown that the types of mental health needs of Guard members are similar to those for regular active duty military, but a greater percentage of Guard members who deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq are affected by mental health issues. For example, a 2010 American Journal of Public Health article reports that six months after returning home 35.5% of the deployed Guard members suffer from PTSD vs. 27.1% of regular military. In addition to reporting higher rates of mental health issues, the lack of accessibility to counseling exacerbates problems as Guard members return to their home communities rather than to military bases after deployments and often live far away from services. There are constant reminders that these valiant men and women need support, such as the ten suicides during the week of April 22, 2013, among Guard members. The Guard is aware of these pressing needs and has been working on finding all possible ways to address the issues, but more needs to be done.
By working together, Give an Hour and the Army National Guard will be able to greatly increase both the availability of and knowledge about mental health services. We plan outreach to all Guard units and to recruit and train more mental health professionals to ensure help is available in every community. Our country’s National Guard members serve during peace as well as war, always ready for crises ranging from natural disasters to foreign conflicts. Please join the National Guard and Give an Hour in providing the best support possible.
Give an Hour relies on its volunteer mental health professionals to provide free counseling to military service members, veterans and their families. Since its founding in 2005, GAH has recruited licensed mental health professionals and now has more than 6700 enrolled. Our goal is to have one tenth of the 400,000 licensed mental health professionals in the United States as volunteers.
Looking to the future, GAH knows that the next generation of mental health professionals, now studying in universities around the country, need to be educated about issues that military family members often face. GAH has made a commitment to educate 100,000 students by June 2014.
To officially launch its commitment, Give an Hour is planning "A Celebration of Service," a two-day event, June 2–3, 2013, in New York City, that will bring together colleagues from the military, government, corporate, educational, and nonprofit worlds to focus on service and train the next generation of mental health professionals while encouraging voluntarism, engaging communities, and creating awareness of the need for critical mental health services. One of the main ways that GAH will reach and interact with students will be a website designed specifically for this project (http://connected.giveanhour.org/got-your-6.shtml). The website is now live and houses a wealth of educational materials on the mental health issues specific to the military and on military culture. Issues such as PTSD, military sexual trauma, suicide, and TBI, as well as deployment, reintegration, family life, and military children, are explored. Students, whether in undergraduate or graduate programs, have easy access to numerous research studies, reports, books, films, sites, video clips, and other interactive material. Information is also available for current mental health professionals and for university administrators of programs that address military and veteran needs. We invite you to visit the website and encourage students interested in pursuing a career in mental health to make use of its many resources.
“Thank you for your website. Please keep it going. I used it to find a counselor and it has made a huge difference.”
A service member said this to two staff members as we were handing out information about Give an Hour at Walter Reed Hospital in Bethesda, MD recently. We were gratified to hear these warm words—especially because, given the total confidentiality of our system, those who have received counseling are not required to tell us about their experience. Give an Hour reaches out to military family members through a number of ways. In addition to ads in print and radio media, we have determined that an excellent means to connect with military family members is at resource days, which offer them a range of information, services, and entertainment. For example, on October 20, 2012, Give an Hour and the Norfolk/Hampton Roads, Va., Community Blueprint group participated in the Military Family Festival sponsored by the Tidewater Military Family Services Council. The event not only informed local military families of the resources available to them, it also provided a free, kid-friendly, fun-filled day. At the Give an Hour table, children made military memory bracelets that allowed them to use their creativity and express how it feels to be a military child. Parents received information on Give an Hour and how to access our free counseling resources. Volunteers and GAH staff themselves had a blast and look forward to continuing to aid the military community in the Hampton Roads area.Please support our country’s military family members by donating to Give an Hour to help make sure that free mental health counseling is available to all in need. The Global Giving matching gift campaign for recurring donations makes this a perfect time to sign up as a monthly donor. Give an Hour makes the most of every dollar donated and is able to provide counseling at a cost (to us) of only $17 per hour. Will you give an hour of counseling for only $17 charged to your credit card each month?
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