Our mission is to develop national networks of
volunteers capable of responding to both acute and chronic conditions that arise within our society. Our first target population is the U.S. troops and families who are being affected by the current military conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Give an Hour™ is asking mental health professionals nationwide to literally donate an hour of their time each week to provide free mental health services to military personnel and their families. Research will guide the development of additional services needed by the military community, and appropriate networks will be created to respond to those needs. Individuals who receive services will be given the opportunity to give an hour back in their own community.
Our organization is currently focusing on the psychological needs of military personnel and their families because of the significant human cost of the current conflicts. Over 2 million troops have been deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Persian Gulf since September 11, 2001. Nearly 550,000 of these troops have been deployed more than once. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, as of November 19, 2010, a total of 5,818 American troops have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, 41,357 U.S. troops have been injured during these conflicts.
Besides the physical injuries sustained, countless servicemen and servicewomen have experienced psychological symptoms directly related to their deployment. According to a RAND report released in April 2008, over 18 percent of troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan--nearly 300,000 troops--have symptoms of post-traumatic stress or major depression. At the same time, about 19 percent of service members reported that they experienced a possible traumatic brain injury. In addition, National Guard and Reserve units who have not yet been deployed are experiencing mental health problems owing to their preparation for deployment and operational stress. And let us not forget: millions of Americans belong to the families of these servicemen and servicewomen. Spouses, children, parents, siblings, and unmarried partners of military personnel are all being adversely affected by the stress and strain of the current military campaign.
A major barrier preventing military personnel from seeking appropriate treatment is the perception of stigma associated with treatment. Many fear that seeking mental health services will jeopardize their career or standing. Others are reluctant to expose their vulnerabilities to providers who are often military personnel themselves, given the military culture’s emphasis on strength, confidence, and bravery. Servicemen and servicewomen might be more inclined to seek help if they know that the services provided are completely independent of the military. By providing services that are separate from the military establishment, we offer an essential option for men and women who might otherwise fail to seek or receive appropriate services.
We are also offering 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 that help is difficult to find or costly. Our goal is to provide easy access to skilled professionals for all of the people affected by the current wars. The participating mental health professionals offer a wide range of services including individual, marital, and family therapy; substance abuse counseling; treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder; and counseling for individuals with traumatic brain injuries. Whether it is a young military wife who is anxious because her four-year-old has had nightmares since her husband’s deployment or a father who is struggling to cope with his son's loss of a leg as a result of an explosion in Iraq, both will receive the assistance they need to move through their experience. The healthier the support system for the returning troops, the lower the risk of severe or prolonged dysfunction within these military families.