Give an Hour (GAH) is a national organization that provides free mental health care to our service members, veterans, and their families. Our network of volunteers includes nearly 7,000 licensed mental health professionals, providing free counseling services (for as long as needed) in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam. Collectively our network has given over 112,000 hours of free service—valued at $11 million— since we began our efforts in 2005.
GAH is proud to lead the Health Pillar for Got Your 6 and proud to work closely with our colleagues from all six pillars of this important campaign. We know that no single organization, agency, or program can provide all that is required to ensure that those who serve come home to the opportunities they need and deserve. And, we know that in addition to providing services to those in need of care and support, we must engage and challenge those coming home to continue to be leaders and assets in their communities. Challenging and encouraging our veterans to continue to serve is important for them and good for our communities and our nation.
Although the war in Iraq has ended and the war in Afghanistan is winding down, the needs of some who served will continue to require our attention long into the future. In the mental health arena, the invisible injuries of war may continue to affect those who suffer for many years. And it isn’t only the service member or veteran who pays the price if we fail to provide appropriate care. We know that children and spouses of those who experience post traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries, and other understandable psychological consequences of war can be adversely affected if their loved ones’ conditions go untreated.
Through our Clinton Global Initiative commitment to Got Your 6, Give an Hour has pledged to ensure that the next generation of mental health professionals are properly trained to recognize and address the issues that affect those who serve and their families. We are proud to work with all of the major mental health associations in the country, including the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and the National Association of Social Workers toward the goal of training 100,000 students in the mental health community about these important issues. Currently, Give an Hour has tracked 12,500 students in the mental health field who have received training to help them prepare to provide appropriate care to our military community moving forward.
Through our many partner organizations GAH is able to identify—and showcase—efforts currently underway to educate and train students. We are also able to alert our partners of additional opportunities to bring good training into classrooms and conversations. Similarly, we are honored to work with The White House’s Joining Forces Initiative on this effort. Joining Forces is a national initiative created by the First Lady and Dr. Biden to engage all sectors of society to give our service members and their families the opportunities and support they have earned. As one focus of Joining Forces, the initiative asks universities and associations within the health care sector to ensure that their students understand the issues affecting our military community.
Give an Hour is about to host our third annual Celebration of Service—this year in Washington DC. Our three-day event from April 6 – 8 brings together our nonprofit, government, and private sector partners to celebrate, engage, educate, and inspire. Partnering with the Studio Theater, this year we are pleased to offer a free day-long conference for students and professionals in the mental health community on a range of important and interesting topics including: the impact of war on children, the use of technology to address the issues that affect those who serve, non-traditional approaches to healing, and the power of art in the healing process.
Our Celebration of Service conference is one key element in our overall strategy to reach students within the mental health community and to ensure that they are properly trained on the important issues affecting our military community. We are proud to partner with Google to live stream this very important training opportunity. We are excited to offer this experience to those students and professionals who are unable to attend our conference in person. Virtual visitors may join us here.
By engaging, by teaching, and by inspiring, we are doing our part to close the military-civilian divide. We are helping to change the conversation in America so that those who serve are seen as assets in our communities. And perhaps, most importantly, we are raising awareness about an important truth. Sometimes veterans do come home with invisible injuries. This doesn’t mean that they can’t be productive employees, students, or leaders. It just means that they need a hand up—just like we all do once in a while.