A article in Vanity Fair describing first-hand the post-traumatic stress disorder caused by war recently got lots of attention. But here's the thing: It was written by a journalist, Sebastian Junger, who never actually engaged in combat. Rather, he was embedded with troops in Afghanistan. Imagine what this experience is like for the soldiers.
There's been a lot of attention lately to PTSD, as we've learned that the United States military was woefully underprepared to treat the thousands of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who were suffering with it. Even as the VA and the military has played catch-up, offering increased counseling, suicide has remained a huge problem among veterans and active-duty military personnel. One unfortunate reality is that even with escalated mental health efforts, soldiers needing help may not actually seek out counseling.
The nonprofit Give an Hour is trying to change that, and a recent large grant to the organization is part of a larger focus on veterans' mental health that we've reported on before. You can see this focus playing out in various ways—like through the regional efforts of grantmakers in Southern California or the national push by the Council of Foundations to draw attention to this and other challenges facing veterans.
Established in 2005, Give an Hour calls for mental health providers to give an hour of their time to provide free and confidential mental health services for military men and women affected by the wars in the Middle East. The project has historically operated in Norfolk, Virginia and Fayetteville, North Carolina, two areas of the U.S. with the highest military populations. Now, it’s expanding to two additional regions of the country with a big give from the United Health Foundation.
The United Health Foundation awarded Give an Hour $1.6 million to expand the organization's reach to Houston, Texas and Tacoma, Washington. The grant comes out of the foundation’s Helping Build Healthier Communities program, which supports nonprofits around the world that are working to improve people’s overall health. Give an Hour will also use a portion of the $1.6 million grant to coordinate with local like-minded organizations in order to bring awareness to participating mental health agencies offering counseling to military vets, and to grow its mental health care provider network.
Give an Hour has received substantial support from other health care foundations in the past, including the Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Walmart, and the American Psychiatric foundations. Back in 2013, the three foundations got together to grow Give an Hour’s initial programs in Virginia and North Carolina.