Free Counseling for Military Families across U.S.

by Give an Hour
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Free Counseling for Military Families across U.S.
Free Counseling for Military Families across U.S.
Free Counseling for Military Families across U.S.
Free Counseling for Military Families across U.S.
Free Counseling for Military Families across U.S.
Free Counseling for Military Families across U.S.
Free Counseling for Military Families across U.S.
Free Counseling for Military Families across U.S.
Free Counseling for Military Families across U.S.
Free Counseling for Military Families across U.S.
Free Counseling for Military Families across U.S.
Free Counseling for Military Families across U.S.
Free Counseling for Military Families across U.S.
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

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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.

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Thank you to our Global Giving donors.
Thank you to our Global Giving donors.

A Year-End Message from Barbara Van Dahlen, Ph.D.

Founder and President of Give an Hour

For many of us, the holidays are a time of tradition – a time of thanks as we take a moment to appreciate the blessings of family, friends, home, and work. When my two daughters were little girls, I took them to visit our local fire station each holiday season. One would carry the bag of toys we brought with us to donate to our local Toys for Tots campaign while the other carried a plate of cookies for the firemen. My daughters loved this tradition - because it allowed them to give to those in need and it allowed us to share our blessings with those who serve our community.

For those who serve, however, the holidays can be a challenging time. Some servicemen and servicewomen are returning and reconnecting to family and friends after a long absence. Others are dealing with the understandable consequences of their experience in combat. And still others are currently deployed and experiencing the holidays far away from loved ones.

Military service affects all those who serve and their families. Fortunately, the majority of those who serve gain new skills and strengths – and they transition to the civilian world with a renewed sense of purpose. 

But some of the thousands who separate from service each year will struggle with the invisible wounds of war such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, and depression. And sadly, 20 veterans a day choose suicide – many of these are men and women who served decades ago but are clearly still suffering the consequences of injuries that were unseen and untreated.

During this season of giving, it is our honor to show our appreciation – and provide support - to those who serve, their families and our veterans. It is up to us to take steps to ensure they receive the support they need to lead healthy, productive lives.

To Give an Hour this means providing free mental health services, during the holiday season and for as long as needed. It means working with partner organizations around the country to connect those in need to a full range of additional support services. It also means changing the culture of mental health for all Americans through our collective impact effort, the Campaign to Change Direction so that all in need are comfortable seeking care. 

For over 11 years, Give an Hour has provided confidential, free, and unlimited mental health services through our volunteer network of nearly 7,000 licensed professionals. Our generous providers have contributed over $21M in free mental health care.

As we close out 2016, we want to thank our Global Giving Donors for supporting our nation's military and veteran communities by making donations to Give an Hour this past year. It costs Give an Hour only $16 to provide one hour of care – compared to the national average of $100 per hour. A gift of $64 covers the cost of a Give an Hour provider offering four weekly visits for one month. And a gift of $384 will provide six months of weekly visits for a member of the military or a loved one to see a Give an Hour provider. For only $832 you can give the gift of one year of mental health care to someone in need. 

I ask you that you to continue to give generously throughout the year and please consider making an end-of-year gift to help support those who serve and their families. If you are able, you might also consider a year-round monthly gift to help increase Give an Hour's ability to provide the services our military and veteran communities need.

As you gather with family and friends to celebrate this holiday season, I hope that your traditions bring you comfort and joy. And may 2017 be a Happy, Healthy, and Peaceful year for you and those you love.

Thank you and Happy Holidays,

Barbara Van Dahlen, Ph.D.

Founder and President

Give an Hour provides free mental health services.
Give an Hour provides free mental health services.
The holidays can be a challenging time.
The holidays can be a challenging time.

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Do you know the five signs?
Do you know the five signs?

In 2016, Give an Hour celebrates eleven years of providing free mental health care to those who serve and their families. Our generous volunteer mental health professionals are the heart and soul of Give an Hour. Although the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are no longer front-page news, our providers, continue to answer the call to serve those in need. 

Thanks to the collective effort of the members of our national network Give an Hour has now provided over 200,000 hours – valued at over $20 million – of free care to our nation’s service members, veterans and their families since we began our work over a decade ago. At Give an Hour we are very proud to serve those who serve.

Give an Hour began as a simple idea back in 2005: ask mental health professionals to give an hour of their time each week to provide free care to the men, women, and families who serve our nation.

In 2015 we launched a complementary effort to address the cultural barriers that prevent those in need – service members, veterans and civilians – from receiving help. 

Give an Hour launched the Campaign to Change Direction, a collective impact effort to change the culture of mental health in America. This movement encourages all Americans to take care of their emotional well-being as they do their physical well-being, and it encourages all of us to learn the Five Signs of emotional suffering so that those in need receive the care and support they deserve.

We are proud that 240 organizations have joined our coalition. And we are honored that many of the organizations leading the way are our partners from the veteran and military service community.

In addition, many celebrities and leaders have stepped up to join this critical effort including: First Lady Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden, Richard Gere, Brian Wilson, Chris Stapleton and Prince Harry. 

We are grateful to the generous donors who support our efforts through Global Giving platform. We encourage you to learn the Five Signs at: www.changedirection.org.

Thank you.

Healthy Families Know the Five Signs
Healthy Families Know the Five Signs
Show Us You Know the Five Signs
Show Us You Know the Five Signs
It's time to change the culture of mental health.
It's time to change the culture of mental health.

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A response to a national tragedy 

Give an Hour™ (www.giveanhour.org), a national nonprofit organization providing mental health services at no cost to members of our nation's military and veteran communities,joins with citizens, organizations, and communities across the country in mourning the loss of so many victims of violence over the past month.

In keeping with our tradition of offering our services to other groups in need, Give an Hour made available its network of mental health professionalsto victims, families, and first responders dealing with the aftermath of the Orlando and Dallas tragedies. Our network includes thousands of licensed mental health practitioners trained in assisting individuals coping with trauma and recovering from crises and violence.

"We know that the impact of this trauma will have a profound and long-lasting affect on many of those touched by this horrific act of violence," says Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, founder and president of Give an Hour, adding, "Give an Hour is committed to ensuring that those who are suffering receive the help and support they deserve."

Heidi, who practices in Orlando, has been one of our 7,000 providers since 2011. She knew that Give an Hour had a history of opening doors to the civilian community. She reached out directly to Dr. Van Dahlen and was “blown away and grateful for the response.”

Personally touched and horrified by the events in her hometown, Heidi began to email her friends in the mental health community. She created a video and reached out to over 1000 therapists in Central Florida and asked them to sign up for Give an Hour. She used social media to reach the extended population and to let families and friends of those impacted know “that help was out there. The greatest challenge continues to be to identify those who have been affected. The circle of influence is so much broader than families of those who have been shot or killed.”

Heidi credits her parents with having trained her well. She says, “Volunteering is in my blood.” Not having served in the military herself, she views Give an Hour as a way of saying thank you to members of the military, veterans, and their families.

With a Master’s in both social work and public health from Boston University, Heidi was working at the VA during September 11th. It was there that the veteran community stole her heart. When she moved back to her hometown of Orlando, Heidi became a Give an Hour licensed mental health therapist, providing individual counseling and going on Wounded Warrior retreats. She fell in love with the work, encouraging clients to use our services and urging colleagues in the mental health community to join our network. She networks frequently, speaks, teaches and promotes Give an Hour. She often encounters people who break down in tears when they find out that they can receive free and confidential services through Give an Hour. 

“I have been in this field a long time (27+ years now!), and I love seeing my clients get better. They are able to heal their marriages or relationships. Their anxiety goes way down; they handle stress much more easily. They get the results they want. They are able to reduce or completely stop using, if that is their goal. They are feeling happy, and they have more internal peace in their lives. 

I believe a person seeking help already has the inherent ability to “be ok” deep down and I can help you tap into your inner peace. I can teach you skills to help you improve your mood, choose healthier ways to cope with stress, and deepen your sense of satisfaction with life. My goal is to help you be your best authentic self.”

Read Heidi’s blog -

https://feelpeacenow.com/you-are-here/#

Give an Hour is grateful to our providers who generously contribute to the well-being of those who have served and other communities. Heidi and fellow mental health providers form the backbone of our network and are helping to build healthier communities around the U.S.

Mental health professionals interested in joining Give an Hour can complete an easy online form by clicking on "Give Help" at www.giveanhour.org.

Those seeking help from Give an Hour can visit www.giveanhour.org and click on “Get Help" to locate a provider in their area.

Give an Hour is grateful to our Global Giving donors who support oour mission.  Thank you.   

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Organization Information

Give an Hour

Location: Bethesda, MD - USA
Website:
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Twitter: @GiveanHour
Project Leader:
Sally Charney
Director of Communications and Partnerships
Bethesda, MD United States
$136,650 raised of $175,000 goal
 
1,906 donations
$38,350 to go
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