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?
In order to track how our efforts are doing in providing free mental health care to military service men and women and their families, Give an Hour conducts surveys every three months, asking our volunteer mental health professionals to let us know how many hours they have contributed. We are excited to report an increase of nearly 8,000 hours donated, not including volunteer hours spent on operations, between April and June 2012. This is a huge increase over previous quarters, when an average of 3,000 hours have been reported as donated, and no doubt reflects our efforts to reach out to members of the military, raise awareness, reduce stigma, and recruit and engage providers. Some of the ways that Give an Hour is conducting outreach are:• Creating a series of public service announcements that have been aired on radio and television stations and on a jumbotron in Times Square in New York City.• Working with branches of the military and Department of Veterans Affairs to reach their personnel. For example, GAH has signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the VA’s Veterans Crisis Line.• Participating in resource fairs that target military families. In addition, Give an Hour has received publicity attracting more volunteers and requests for service due to the honors garnered over the past few months. The White House’s Joining Forces Initiative recognized Give an Hour as one of five winners of the Joining Forces Community Challenge. Also, Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen was named one of the one hundred most influential people in the world by Time Magazine for her work as Founder and President of Give an Hour. In addition to the tremendous honor we feel because of this recognition, we also believe that the attention surrounding these awards will allow GAH to recruit more mental health providers, reach more military families and persuade more to seek care if they are in need. Attached is a link to one of the PSAs that has appeared in Times Square this summer.
Give an Hour™ now has over 6,300 mental health professionals enrolled as volunteers, ready to give an hour a week in free confidential counseling to military family members in their communities. Every provider who volunteers allows GAH to reach more communities and more people in need, such as the military spouse who sent in the following testimonial."When my husband came home from his 5th deployment he finally recognized everything I had been saying for the past 6 years and decided to seek help. The Army mental health system is so bogged down they could only see him once every 2 months since he was not high risk i.e., he wasn’t engaging in binge drinking or beating me or the kids. However, he exhibited extreme examples of PTSD suffering and was self-medicating with alcohol so I went on the offensive and started looking for resources away from the military and stumbled onto Give an Hour. We were connected with a wonderful woman who assisted us in the reconnection process. We finally let our defenses down because we were no longer looking at home a year, gone a year like it has been the past 11years. She helped us to take time to simply adjust. Give an Hour is a wonderful organization and it is an amazing thing you are doing. I advocate for this service EVERY chance I get! "
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Director of Communications and Partnerships