Give an Hour Providers Step up to Serve

Posted October 15, 2012

By: Barbara Van Dahlen, President of Give An Hour

A recent surge in the number of hours Give an Hour providers are donating to serving the military community has confirmed my belief that service members will ultimately avail themselves of mental health care if we make it easily accessible to them.

We at Give an Hour survey our network of mental health professionals once every quarter. We ask them several questions to determine the number of hours they are providing to service members, veterans, their families, and their communities. We ask about the types of services they are providing, and we inquire about any challenges or obstacles they face in their efforts to support the military community. Our nearly 6,500 mental health professionals are very generous with their time, and we are grateful for the skill, expertise, and compassion they are providing to those who bear the burden of war. Approximately 10% of our providers respond to our online request for information. From these responses we have been able to track important trends and developments.

For the last several years our providers have reported giving approximately 3,000 hours each quarter to those who serve, their families, and their communities. Given that this number is the total of hours reported by only the small percentage of providers who respond to our surveys, we are confident that in reality our providers are donating significantly more hours.

Nevertheless, for reasons we are still working to understand, we have seen a dramatic increase in the hours given by our providers over the last six months. Our providers are now giving over 10,000 hours each quarter to the military community. They’re giving direct service through counseling. They’re consulting to other organizations that serve military personnel and veterans but lack mental health expertise. They’re giving talks and presentations at reintegration events and conferences. In essence, they’re stepping up to fill gaps and provide services wherever and whenever needed. We are extremely grateful to them and very proud of the impact that we are having. Our providers have now given over 70,000 hours of care to those who serve our country.

So how do we understand the increase in hours given? Certainly Give an Hour has received a significant amount of exposure and publicity over the last six to eight months. We were chosen by the White House as one of the five finalists for the Joining Forces Community Challenge in April of 2012. And I was named by TIME magazine that same month to their list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. We were also given the opportunity to run an ad in Times Square all summer long. In addition, we have developed excellent relationships with our friends and colleagues in the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. Finally, we have an extremely creative, determined, and talented staff—many of whom are veterans or military family members—who have done an amazing job with outreach and education.

Regardless of the reason for the increase in services provided, this is very good news for those in need. Not all who come home from war suffer with severe mental health challenges. But all who go to war are affected by their experience—as are their families. We need to ensure that service members and military families have easy access to mental health professionals who can assist with the understandable challenges of reintegration. More important, most of those who do struggle with the understandable psychological effects of war are still quite capable of being excellent partners and parents, loyal and productive employees, accomplished and successful students, and inspiring and effective leaders.

Give an Hour is proud to join our partners on the Got Your 6 Campaign and the Community Blueprint Initiative as we raise awareness, provide services, and educate our country about the important issues that affect those who serve as well as the critical opportunities we must create in order to properly welcome them home.