For Give an Hour 2015 is a very special year as we mark our 10th anniversary of providing critical mental health services to those who serve, their families, and their communities.
Give an Hour started as an idea that we can and must do better with and for this generation of veterans; that we can and must capitalize on the spirit of service our military men, women, and families embody; that we can and must work together for the common good.
“Not all scars are visible to the human eye. We all have them inside. It is what we choose to do with those battle wounds that make the difference. I will never be cured, but I can manage my condition and today I am able to have hope for a better tomorrow.” Jennifer - U.S. Army Veteran, Operation Enduring Freedom
At the tender age of 17, Jennifer joined the military seeking guidance and stability. She deployed to Afghanistan and earned the right to call herself a veteran of foreign war at 20 years old. When Jennifer came home, the effects of war remained. The flashbacks of bodies and explosions consumed her. Jennifer began to self medicate with illicit drugs, could not hold a job, and ended up homeless. She was arrested and given a choice — stay sober and get help for her PTSD or go to jail. She entered a local drug court program, had the support of a longtime friend, and received proper treatment. After her VA benefits expired, she was able to keep seeing her therapist, at no cost, through Give an Hour.
Today, Jennifer is the capable mother of two and is employed as a nurse at a hospital. She still sees her GAH therapist and continues her role as a spokesperson for Give an Hour.
Give an Hour has learned many things over the last decade. In particular, we have learned that one size doesn't fit all when it comes to providing care and support to our military and veteran community.
Our mission could not be accomplished without the generosity of our providers, who sign on to donate one hour of their time each week. Thanks to the nearly 7,000 providers who make up Give an Hour’s national network, we have given over 145,000 hours of care, valued at over $14.5 million.
We believe we have not only the potential but the duty to help one another in times of need. Thank you to all our Global Giving donors and mental health professionals for making that happen.
At the heart of Give an Hour’s mission is the military community ….
Ryan is a 32-year-old Navy veteran living in Dallas, Texas, with his wife and three daughters, ages 8, 6, and 4. Today he is employed as an Explosives Specialist at Dallas Love Field airport, where he uses the knowledge and expertise he gained as a member of one of the Navy’s elite Explosives Ordnance Disposal units.
Ryan deployed to Iraq twice, first in 2007 and then again in 2008. His first day in Iraq involved disarming seven roadside bombs. Ryan earned the Bronze Star Medal, Combat Action Ribbon during his 2007 deployment, having responded to over 150 EOD/Combat Missions. He disarmed one IED by hand and another in a bomb suit. Ryan also earned an Army Commendation Medal during his 2008 deployment, during which he responded to six IEDs and disposed of over 6,000 pounds of captured enemy explosives.
During that time, in addition to the stresses of combat, Ryan was dealing with other developments at home. His oldest daughter suffered from two major seizures while he was deployed, and his middle daughter was born during another deployment; he didn’t see her until she was three months old. Like many people—civilian or military—Ryan knew things “weren’t right” but avoided seeking help. He and his wife kept pushing on, trying and hoping for things to get better. In May 2012, after serving over 9 years, Ryan was medically separated from the Navy for PTSD.
And then in 2013, Ryan became depressed and hopeless and contemplated suicide. The only reason he did not pull the trigger was because his family was home. He began seeing a mental health professional, and although he is still healing, he recognizes that he wouldn’t be where he is today without the help of Give an Hour. Ryan notes, “If my story can help even one person . . . if I can encourage one person to get help, to let them know they are not alone, then that’s what I want to do.” Give an Hour was created for Ryan and others like him—who have come home with the understandable invisible injuries of war.
The war in Afghanistan is winding down, and many of the 2.6 million who have served over the past 13 years in this conflict and the war in Iraq have already separated from the military and returned to communities across the country. Some of these men and women—people like Ryan—may be your neighbors, your co-workers, or your friends. Hopefully, you know who they are. Hopefully, they are getting what they need to build the lives they deserve. Over the next five years, hundreds of thousands more will separate from the military and head home to our towns and cities. As a nation, we should welcome them home by doing more than just thanking them for their service. Our job as a nation is to identify appropriate opportunities and ensure access to effective care. At Give an Hour our focus is on ensuring that we provide quality mental health care and support to those who serve, their families, and their communities. We couldn't do the important work that we do without the support of our generous providers, volunteers, and our GlobalGiving donors.
Give an Hour is grateful for the support received from so many donors through GlobalGiving, which continues to make possible our ongoing work providing counseling to active duty service members, veterans, and their loved ones. In addition to donating through Global Giving, another way to support our efforts is to follow Give an Hour on social media and to share our news and messages with your networks. We will continue to update you with reports on Global Giving, too.
We are very pleased to report that as of July 2014, Give an Hour's network has 7,000 licensed mental health professionals, located in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam, who have donated nearly 140,000 total hours of mental health services. Using a nationwide average of $100 per hour for mental health care, Give an Hour providers have donated nearly $14 million in services since GAH began providing care in July 2007. In addition, our Facebook has increased our Likes 129 %.
In addition to direct counseling, Give an Hour providers participate in community programs, provide consultations to employers, first-responders, schools, and other veterans service organizations; teach skills; offer support and demystify mental health care for those who serve and for those who seek to support our country’s troops.
Through face-to-face counseling, phone consultation and telehealth capabilities, GAH is uniquely positioned to be able to best provide mental health services in the underserved and most needy areas: rural areas; regions around military bases where there are low civilian populations; and locations where Reserve and National Guard troops and their families live, which are often far away from military bases and Veterans Administration facilities.
In reflecting about the death of veterans advocate Steve Robinson recently, Barbara Van Dahlen, founder and president of Give an Hour, recently shared her personal story.
My father also came home with undiagnosed combat stress. We all experience loss and recognize accomplishment through our own unique filters. From my perspective one of Steve's greatest gifts to his generation of veterans -- and those veterans just now returning home from over a decade of war -- was his willingness to talk openly about his own mental health struggles and his steadfast belief that suffering from post-traumatic stress does not mean that you are weak. He knew that you couldn’t always prevent, avoid, or resolve the development of devastating symptoms simply by sucking it up. Not only did he fight for his fellow brothers and sisters in arms, he provided an example for them to follow. He provided an example of how even the toughest can suffer from the wounds of war. And he demonstrated that you could be tough even while you heal. Finally, he made it absolutely clear that it takes grit and strength of character to accept the help that one may need to face the demons that can haunt even the bravest soldier. Much remains to be done to ensure that those who come home from war, those who serve, and their families have the care and support they need and deserve. Like Steve and many others, I am hopeful that we can get there. We are a great and generous nation.
We at Give an Hour remain committed to serving those who serve, and we thank you, our friends at Global Giving, for the support that allows us to do so.
All of us at Give an Hour are grateful for the support received from so many donors through GlobalGiving, which continues to make possible the ongoing work providing counseling to active duty service members, veterans, and their loved ones. The most recent survey of our volunteer providers tells us that the demand for Give an Hour’s services is growing. As of May, 2014, 119,200 hours were reported donated, an increase of more than 7,000 hours in the past three months.
The experience of war will continue to affect those who serve and their families for years and decades to come, and the mental health community has the opportunity to play a critical role in their healing. We are proud of our partnerships and relationships with the major mental health associations. Together, we are doing great work to reduce the stigma associated with mental health care.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and Military Appreciation Month. There is no better time to get involved, whether or not you are a mental health provider. In addition to donating through Global Giving, a very simple way is to follow Give an Hour on social media channels and to share our news and messages with your networks. We will continue to update you with reports on Global Giving, too.
As all counseling through Give an Hour is provided on a totally confidential basis, we can not share many personal stories, except for those by people who ask us to share them, such as the following by Justin Constantine. A wounded warrior who has decided to make helping others his life mission, he hopes that sharing his own story will inspire others to seek the help they need.
Justin Constantine, Lt. Col (retired), Marine Corps Reserve, volunteered for deployment to Iraq in 2006 and served in the Al-Anbar Province as a team leader of a group of marines performing civil affairs work while attached to an infantry battalion. While on a routine combat patrol six weeks into his deployment, he was shot in the head by a sniper. Thanks to his fellow marines and the courage and skill of a U.S. Navy corpsman, Mr. Constantine survived. Through teamwork and a positive mental attitude, which includes a willingness to openly discuss issues surrounding his injuries, he has had quite a successful recovery, which has included receiving counseling through Give an Hour. Although Justin qualified for mental health services through the Veterans Administration, they were only available during regular business hours and he could not take the necessary time off from his demanding job. His GAH counselor was willing to meet him on weekends and near his home. Justin’s personal awards from his time in Iraq include the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, and Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medal. Mr. Constantine received Give an Hour's "Commitment to Service" award in 2012. He has started his own business as an inspirational speaker and serves on the Board of Directors of the Wounded Warrior Project, Give An Hour, and SemperMax. In addition, Justin began the Master of Laws (LLM) program at Georgetown University in the Fall of 2012 focusing on National Security, and will graduate this year.
Educating the Next Generation of Mental Health Care Providers for Veterans
Give an Hour provides free and confidential mental health services to military service members, veterans, and their loved ones. Our nearly 7,000 licensed social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists donate time each week to those who serve our country. Thanks in part to those who generously donated via Global Giving, our volunteer mental health providers can continue to offer their critically needed services in every state across the country. We are grateful to the nearly 500 donors who contributed over the last three months. You have increased greatly our ability to provide free mental health care to those in need and we are very grateful for this outpouring of support.
Although the war is winding down, in many ways the work back home is just beginning, as returning service members face the challenges of reintegrating into the civilian world. Assisting all post-9/11 service members, veterans, and loved ones will require additional mental health professionals for years to come, particularly those familiar with the invisible wounds of war and the challenges facing military families.
To help meet this need, Give an Hour has committed to training the next generation of mental health professionals to prepare them to address these specific issues. We have developed a website dedicated to this training and are hosting our second annual conference on April 7, 2014, to gather in Washington, D.C., some of the greatest thought leaders and practitioners in the fields of military culture, military medicine, mental health, and civic engagement. Our conference will address topics such as the use of technology to support those who serve and their families, nontraditional forms of healing, and the effect of war on the children of those who serve.
Well-respected journalists will serve as moderators and panelists: Yochi Dreazen (The Atlantic), David Finkel (author of Thank You for Your Service and The Good Soldiers), Joe Klein (Time), Quil Lawrence (NPR), Mark Thompson (Time), and Gregg Zoroya (USA Today). To end the day, we will screen the PBS documentary "A Matter of Duty" by Emmy Award–winning documentary filmmaker Charles Stuart.
The entire conference will be live streamed and subsequently available online. We have invited students in mental health disciplines, licensed professionals seeking additional training, all of Give an Hour’s supporters, and anyone interested in learning more about these issues to go to http://connected.giveanhour.org/webcasts.shtml for more information.
We would like to extend a personal invitation to all of our Global Giving donors to join us in D.C. for the conference and to meet those who have benefitted from your generosity.
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Director of Communications and Partnerships