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Give an Hour: Volunteer Mental Health Providers Help Returning Veterans
Whether you're a U.S. service member returning home from a tour of duty with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or a young military wife whose four-year-old has had nightmares since her father's deployment to Iraq, a nonprofit organization known as Give an Hour is ready to connect you with a volunteer mental health professional willing to help.
Give an Hour has created a network of nearly 1,200 mental health professionals nationwide who literally give an hour of their time each week to provide free mental health services to military personnel and their families. Individuals who receive services are also given the opportunity to give an hour back in their own community.
Give an Hour believes that those in need are capable of and interested in becoming those who provide services for others. The organization is partnering with a variety of federal, state, and local organizations and agencies to provide a range of community volunteer opportunities.
"While our primary focus is to get much-needed counseling and other mental health services to the folks that need it, the other unique aspect of our organization is a kind of 'pay-it-forward' idea that the people receiving services will then give an hour of volunteer time back to their own community," said Give an Hour founder and executive director Dr. Barbara Romberg.
Give an Hour also offers services to parents, siblings, and unmarried partners who are not entitled to receive mental health benefits through the military. Although these individuals may have access to mental health services through other means, they are less likely to seek the help they need and deserve if it is costly or difficult to find.
The mental health professionals participating in Give an Hour offer a range of services, including individual, marital, and family therapy; substance abuse counseling; treatment for PTSD; and counseling for individuals with traumatic brain injuries.
"What our veterans and their families and loved ones are experiencing as a result of deployments; traumatic brain injuries and other devastating physical injuries; PTSD; and more is incomprehensible to the general population," said Dr. Romberg. "The sheer number of people being affected makes it virtually impossible for the very competent but overtaxed military health care system to provide help to everyone who needs it."
According to Give an Hour, research indicates that a major barrier preventing military personnel from seeking appropriate treatment is the perception of stigma associated with mental health care. Many fear that seeking mental health services will jeopardize their career or standing.
Give an Hour's services are endorsed by many veterans service organizations, but they are separate from the military, offering an option for men and women who might otherwise fail to seek or receive appropriate services.
Give an Hour hopes to recruit to its network 40,000 of the approximately 400,000 licensed mental health professionals in the United States. This could potentially save the military and the taxpayer $4 million per week in mental health services costs.
Recently, Give an Hour expanded its website to include more ways for those seeking services to find them. The site's "Basic Search" option allows visitors to choose from a short list of fields to find providers in their area, while a "Guided Search" asks a series of questions to provide results customized by location and needs.
Mental health professionals willing to donate an hour of their time each week for a minimum commitment of one year can also visit Give an Hour's new website for more information.