Sep 13, 2017

Give an Hour Offers Free Mental Health Services

Give an Hour Helps Victims of Hurricane Harvey
Give an Hour Helps Victims of Hurricane Harvey

Give an Hour Offers Free Mental Health Services in Response to the Massive Destruction of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Irma in Florida

Give an Hour offers long term care and support

As the flood waters begin to recede in Hurricane Harvey’s and Hurricane Irma’s wake, Give an Hour is offering immediate and long-term care and support to bring mental health and emotional support services to those affected. While some people will be in immediate need of intensive mental health treatment, many more people will be in need of someone who can provide emotional support and assistance.

Since 2005, Give an Hour has provided free and confidential mental health care to those who serve, our veterans, and their families – providing over 224,000 hours of free care valued at nearly $23M.  Give an Hour has since expanded efforts to address the mental health needs of other populations.

Give an Hour is proud to provide this essential mental health support in response to the massive destruction by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.   We are grateful to our network of 7000 generous mental health professionals – many of whom are already stepping up during this time of need.  Some Give an Hour providers may join efforts on the ground – others in our vast network will offer phone support to the thousands in need.  By harnessing the skill and compassion of mental health professionals across the country, Give an Hour is able to provide critical mental health assistance to those who are suffering emotionally.

Give an Hour has historically opened its network to assist those affected by national traumas and tragedies such as the shootings at Sandy Hook elementary school, the Boston Marathon bombings, the violence in Charlottesville, Hurricane Sandy, and now Hurricane Harvey and Irma.   

 “Volunteering at the GRB where over 5000 displaced people are sheltering. No real structure for mental health beyond acute care. Just sending us out into the masses to help. Connected with the VA by phone as they don't have a presence here. On the hunt for veterans and helping anyone I can in between. One of our GAH providers is meeting me here...she reached out and we both knew we needed to do something, anything. My heart hurts. My home is safe but so many were not so lucky. One-third of one of the 5 halls  - filled wwith people, children and pets."

 Heather, and Tarra, Give an Hour staff members

Our goal is to increase our mental health provider network to include every mental health professional in the United States in order to always be ready to respond to tragedies that impact our country.

Give an Hour providers offer compassion, expertise and assistance.  We all have gifts to give to those who are hurting. We invite our Global Giving donors to continue to support our efforts.

Give an Hour provides those in need with help and hope. We offer those who care the opportunity to give –  and we offer expertise as well as care and support when tragedy strikes in our communities. Thank you.

Survivors of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, please visit:

https://giveanhour.org/hurricane-relief-effort/

Give n Hour Provides Hope and Help
Give n Hour Provides Hope and Help
A Shelter During the Hurricane
A Shelter During the Hurricane

Links:

Jun 19, 2017

Meeting My Mother

Barbara visiting her mom
Barbara visiting her mom

Because of my mother’s mental illness, I grew up wanting to understand and help those who were suffering emotionally. But until recently, I never talked publicly about her or the pain my family suffered. Perhaps by sharing my story, others will be  inspired to help us reach those in need.

My father was a veteran of WWII who lied about his age to join the Navy after Pearl Harbor. Like many combat veterans, he came home with post-traumatic stress – though no one knew what that was at the time. He returned to Los Angeles after the war, met and married my mother, had my three older brothers and decided to move his young family to the San Joaquin Valley in central California.

Exactly what happened next is hard to know. My mother gave birth to me shortly before the move. Perhaps it was the combination of removing her from her support system in Los Angeles and a severe case of postpartum depression that lead to the psychotic break that would shatter her life and our family. 

So, there we were – the WWII veteran, three little boys, a baby girl… and my psychotic mother. She was later diagnosed with schizophrenia – but that matters less than the impact her condition had on her and us. For the next eight years, my dad tried to find help for her. But in rural California during the 1960s there was little help for people with my mother’s condition – especially for people from working class families. 

My parents divorced when I was eight and my mother returned to live with her family in Los Angeles. As the years passed, we saw my mother less and less. My brothers seemed angry at her – probably because they felt abandoned …. though that was never discussed. And I was afraid of her. She wore strange clothes and talked about aliens and god and space ships. Visits were awkward and uncomfortable. And although my brothers told me that she took good care of me when I was a baby, I have no memory of feeling anything toward her other than fear and embarrassment.

Unfortunately, there was more trauma to come during my childhood. Our family had so much pain to deal with – I think we were all relieved that my mother was no longer in our lives. I stopped hearing from her – except for the card I received out of the blue when I graduated from high school. I didn't respond.

I went to college and moved east for graduate school. I became a psychologist, married, had two beautiful daughters of my own, divorced and twelve years ago, founded the nonprofit organization Give an Hour. By harnessing mental health professionals all over the country, Give an Hour has provided over 220,000 hours of free mental health care to those who serve and their families. In 2015, Give an Hour, launched the Campaign to Change Direction to change the culture of mental health so that all in need receive the treatment and support they deserve. 

Until six years ago, I had no interest in finding my mother. I never spoke about her and most people probably assumed that, like my father, my mother had died early in my life. I can’t really take credit for wanting to find her either. In 2010, I married a wonderful man who offered to help if I wanted to look for her.

My husband and I tried to visit my mom soon after we located her. We reached out to the nursing home and sent cards, flowers and pictures – to help prepare her for the visit. It is impossible to imagine how painful it must have been for her to lose her mind and then her four children – through no fault of her own. She had developed a chronic, relentless, debilitating disorder and eventually fell through the cracks in society. And then, forty-three years later, her daughter showed up for a visit. 

That first attempt to see my mother went poorly and was extremely upsetting. She was agitated and overwhelmed and couldn't tolerate the visit. She didn't want us in her room. So, we stood in the doorway – trying to talk to her – until we realized that she just wanted to be left alone. I remember going back to the hotel that night – crying for her, for me ….and for my family.

I didn't give up. I continued to send cards, flowers and pictures. Soon after that first visit, my mother fell and broke her leg.  Thankfully, the nursing home called me and even though we live in Washington DC, we were able to help coordinate her care. At least I could do that. 

In May, I decided to try again. And for reasons that I don't fully understand, this visit was completely different. I called the caring hospital administrator who looks out for my mom, to let her know that we were coming. We were told that my mother seemed pleased about the upcoming visit. She even agreed to bring two chairs into her room so that we could sit down.

My mom is 89 years old. She looks like any homeless woman you might see in any city. She is missing all of her front teeth and was recovering from a nasty rash that left her with blisters on her hands and face. None of this surprised me. I knew what to expect – but it was still difficult to see.  She has lived a brutally hard life with many years on the street and little care for her physical or emotional health until recently.

What was shocking was how engaged she was – how kind, how interested, how smart and how funny. She loved seeing pictures of her granddaughters and hearing about their interests and activities. And she had no signs of dementia – surprising me several times by accurately recalling events from the first eight years of my life as well as details from the last visit we ever had when I was thirteen.   

My mother also shows the signs of a long life lived with mental illness. Her speech is mechanical and her use of words and phrases idiosyncratic. Her emotional range is limited and she is understandably interpersonally cautious. She avoided all possible uncomfortable topics and never mentioned my brothers or her lost life. But she tolerated our presence and seemed to genuinely enjoy our visit. Most importantly to me, my mother wasn't afraid of us – and for the first time in my life, I wasn't afraid of her. 

It’s hard to explain what meeting my mother felt like. It was wonderful, terrible, happy and painful.  I think the most overwhelming feeling I had – and have – is regret. My mother didn't deserve this fate. She was a loving wife and mother who cared deeply for her family. She was a cub scout mom who drove her three little boys around Los Angeles in an old beat-up jeep. She didn't ask for the illness that destroyed her life. It wasn't fair that she lost us. It wasn't fair that we lost her. 

But I am also thankful and hopeful. I am thankful for all of the individuals and organizations that are working with us to change our culture. I am thankful for all of the people who are working to find cures for these devastating mental illnesses. I am thankful for the kindness and care that my mother is receiving and I am grateful that for the rest of her life, we will be able to help her. And someday, we will change the culture so that people like my mother receive the care and dignity they deserve.

Barbara with her husband, Dr. Randy Phelps
Barbara with her husband, Dr. Randy Phelps
Barbara introduced GAH spot at the LA Dodgers Game
Barbara introduced GAH spot at the LA Dodgers Game
Military Awareness Night at LA Dodgers Stadium
Military Awareness Night at LA Dodgers Stadium
Great Support at the LA Service Project
Great Support at the LA Service Project

Links:

Mar 23, 2017

Give an Hour to Change Direction

Know the Five Signs.
Know the Five Signs.

It’s time to change the culture of mental health in America. It’s time to remove barriers so that we can talk openly about our emotional well-being – as well as our emotional pain. By changing our culture, we will change minds, attitudes, and behaviors. By changing our culture, we will increase access to care, decrease suffering, and increase productivity worldwide.

Did you know that one in five active-duty service members experience symptoms of posttraumatic stress, depression, or other mental health challenges?

"Suicide — not combat — is the leading killer of U.S. troops deployed to the Middle East to fight Islamic State militants,” according to newly released Pentagon statistics.

Did you know nearly one in every five people, both civilian and military, 42.5 million adult Americans, has a diagnosable mental health condition?

All of us have mental health - just as we all have physical health. Sometimes we feel well emotionally, but sometimes we struggle, sometimes we suffer. Emotional pain is part of the human condition – sometimes we are able to heal with the love and support of those close to us…sometimes we need more.

Did you know, when it comes to mental illness, adolescents and teens are particularly vulnerable and half of all lifetime cases of mental disorders begin by age 14?

Many students might be reticent to speak up if they are having problems and worry that others might judge them. Many members of our military and veterans are reluctant to speak up because they are worried about the shame associated with asking for help.

According to the CDC, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among adolescents ages 12 - 17 and the 3rd for youth 10 - 24 years old.

Throughout my struggle with depression, I found my personality changed and I was not being my happy-go-lucky self.  I was no longer able to see the glass half full.  I also felt myself forcing conversations with friends where words once used to flow effortlessly.  Those same friends helped pick me up out of that dark place to get me back to myself.  I continue to seek support from loved ones and now offer up my ears to listen.”

Give an Hour can help – by providing those in need with the help they deserve and by removing barriers to care. 

Give an Hour is a national non-profit organization focused on providing free mental health care to the military, veterans, and their loved ones – and beginning in 2017 we are expanding to other populations in need. In March of 2015, Give an Hour, launched the Campaign to Change Direction to change the culture of mental health in America. 

Give an Hour’s Campaign to Change Direction has created a common language that allows us to recognize the Five Signs of emotional suffering -- change in personality, withdrawal, agitation, poor self-care, and hopelessness --in ourselves and others. The Campaign encourages everyone to care for our mental well-being and the mental well-being of those we love.

In addition to direct counseling, Give an Hour’s network of volunteer professionals are working to reduce the barriers that prevent people from getting proper care  by participating in and leading education, training, and outreach efforts in schools, communities, and military bases.  

Several cities, communities and states are now inspiring citizens through this public health effort, including LaCrosse, Wisconsin, Summit County, Ohio, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Nashville, Tennessee and the entire state of New Hampshire. We are also receiving commitments from  corporate pledge partners: LHI, Aetna, Booz Allen Hamilton, and more.  

Getting help isn’t always easy.

Through the Campaign to Change Direction, Give an Hour is working to encourage everyone to pay attention to their emotional well-being and share what works so that we can all stay emotionally healthy!

Please support us in our effort to #ChangeMentalHealth at: www.changedirection.org.

Students Know the Five Signs. Do You?
Students Know the Five Signs. Do You?
A Community Learning the Five Signs
A Community Learning the Five Signs
Military Families Know the Five Signs.
Military Families Know the Five Signs.

Links:

 
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