Give an Hour Expands Mental Health Services
Give an Hour (www.giveanhour.org) was founded in 2005 by psychologist Barbara Van Dahlen, Ph.D. in Washington D.C. Give an Hour’s mission is to develop national networks of volunteer licensed mental health clinicians capable of responding to both acute and chronic conditions that arise within our society. Since 2005 Give an Hour has focused our efforts on providing no cost and confidential mental health care to those who serve, our veterans, their families, and those affected by manmade trauma and natural disasters. Since its inception, Give an Hour’s national network of nearly 4,500 licensed mental health professionals has provided more than 300,000 hours of care and support to those in need valued at nearly $30 million dollars. Give an Hour continues to expand its efforts to address the mental health needs of additional populations.
Expanding Mental Health Services In a Disaster
Give an Hour's current active programs include the following: The provision of no cost, confidential mental health care by licensed clinicians. These services are available to active military, veterans, and family members, as well as those affected by natural disasters (like the wildfires in LA and Ventura Counties) and man-made tragedies (like the Borderline mass shooting). In Ventura County, we continue to offer weekly support groups for family members who lost a loved one in the Borderline shooting, as well as a Borderline Survivor's Group. Those affected by the Borderline shooting and the wildfires continue access our network of volunteer licensed mental health clinicians for help and support. Give an Hour also hosted an eight week no cost mental health support group for the residents of the Seminole Springs community of mobile homes off Mulholland Highway, one of the hardest hit areas of the fire. Additionally, Give an Hour contracts with Ventura County Behavioral Health to provide mental health prevention education and supports the opioid overdose prevention program.
Emotional pain is part of our experience as human beings
Behavioral health problems and disorders are among the most frequent adverse health effects after exposure to a disaster—this despite chronic underreporting due to the stigma often associated with these conditions, the lack of visible or physical wounds, the separation of mental health services from medical services, and the lag time between exposure and the onset of disorder. Almost everyone in a community struck by a disaster will feel some type of emotional effect. For most, the acute reactions will be transient, and functional recovery will occur without intervention. For some, however, the impacts of a disaster on behavioral health can be severe and long-lasting, and if not addressed, can impede the recovery of individuals, families, and communities, resulting in significant long-term health burdens.
Disaster events activate the body’s “fight or flight” response, unleashing adrenaline and the stress hormone cortisol. Almost everyone exposed to or a natural disaster will experience some of these immediate biological and psychological effects, and some people will be so distressed that they become withdrawn or even dysfunctional. Some may increase their use of drugs and alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate to cope with the psychological pain and suffering. Chronic, or “toxic stress”, can impair the parts of the brain that control reasoning and self-control — leading to more impulsive behavior and an increased likelihood of addiction. In 2010, researchers found that approximately one-third of Hurricane Katrina survivors who had been displaced to Houston, Texas had increased their tobacco, alcohol, or marijuana use after the storm. Many fire victims are unable to return to work, lack social connections and support, and experience the added financial burden of repairing or replacing damaged property.
The long period of rebuilding perpetuates people’s feelings of uncertainty and chronic stress. Turning to unhealthy coping skills, such as alcohol or drugs may be a way to regain a feeling of control, especially if the one had engaged in unhealthy behaviors before the disaster.
The trauma of witnessing the destruction of one’s home and losing loved ones and pets can also give rise to anxiety and depression. After the Northern California firestorm in October 2017, for example, the number of people seeking mental health resources in Sonoma County nearly doubled. Many of the calls came from people who had not sought out mental health support previously.
Give an Hour Needs Your Support
Unfortunately, our nation continues to face devastating natural disasters and tragedies such as mass shootings, bombings, hurricanes, floods and fires. Give an Hour has the capacity to help those experiencing trauma, loss, grief, and anxiety through our national network of volunteer mental health providers who are eager to do their part.
We are grateful to our generous GlobalGiving donors. Your donations are critical to supporting our efforts to provide help and help to those who are suffering. Thank you.
Give an Hour Needs Your Support