Give an Hour Newsletter - November 2010
Veterans Day is a time for the country to pause and pay tribute to the men and women who serve our country in uniform. We are in our 7th year of war in Iraq and our
9th year of war in Afghanistan--now America's longest war--and our military families continue to serve and sacrifice. In addition to recognizing the service of our military men and women, we must all continue to recognize the hardships that the families of our military men and women continue to endure. At Give an Hour™, we know that often times it is the family members who are struggling with the stress and strain of repeated deployments. Our services are also available to them. I am very proud of the work we continue to do--with the help of our very dedicated providers and volunteers--to raise awareness of the issues facing military families and to reduce the stigma often associated with seeking mental health care. It is vital that we continue to spread the message that post-traumatic stress is a normal reaction to war. This issue of the newsletter is filled with public events with just that aim. As always, if you have ideas on how to further our mission, please let us know.
The Lilly Foundation Awards Give an Hour™
Give an Hour™ announces a $400,000 grant from the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation.
The Lilly Foundation first awarded a $1 million grant jointly to Give an Hour™ and the American Psychiatric Foundation (APF) in May 2008 to help develop the Give an Hour™ network and to build a public education campaign addressing military mental health issues. The current grant is awarded to Give an Hour™ is a continuation of those efforts and provides support for general operations.
"Through Lilly's generosity we have done great work with the American Psychiatric Foundation to raise awareness about the psychological impact of war, to reduce stigma, and to raise awareness about Give an Hour™'s services," said Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, founder and president of Give an Hour™. "With Lilly's continued commitment to this issue, we can extend our efforts to help military men and women and their families. This grant will help us continue our work to normalize what our military personnel and their families are experiencing and support the sacrifices that they are making by providing critical and confidential mental health support at no cost."
"We are indebted to the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation for their continued support of military mental health education and services. We are very proud of our partnership with Give an Hour™" said Paul T. Burke, Executive Director of APF.
Barbara Van Dahlen Featured Speaker at Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy
In 1985, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter initiated the annual Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy
to bring together national leaders in mental health to focus and coordinate their efforts on an issue of common concern.
This year's topic was "A Veteran's Journey Home: Reintegrating Our National Guard and Reservists into Family, Community, and Workplace." The invitation-only 2010 symposium, held at the Carter Center in Atlanta, focused on the current mental health services, screening, surveillance, and support available for returning National Guard and reserve Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans and their families--so they can protect and promote a healthy journey home. GAH 's Founder and President, Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, was the main presenter on Thursday, November 4; Dr. Van Dahlen is pictured above with Mrs. Carter.
Held each November, the symposia have examined such issues as mental illness and the elderly, child and adolescent illness, family coping, financing mental health services and research, treating mental illness in the primary care setting, and stigma and mental illness. They represent a unique opportunity each year for this leadership to hear remarks from a variety of individuals with expertise on a selected topic; discuss diverse viewpoints in an open forum; identify areas of consensus and potential collaborations as well as points of divergence; and recommend action steps for symposium participants to move an agenda forward.
The Mental Health Program hosts two meetings each year designed to tackle specific mental health issues of public policy: The Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy and the Rosalynn Carter Georgia Mental Health Forum, established in 1995, held each May for state mental health organizations.
These meetings bring mental health professionals together for open discussions on how to effect change in mental health care. The meetings include representatives from all sectors of the industry--policymakers, health care providers, and consumers.
See more at http://www.cartercenter.org/health/mental_health/symposium.html.
HBO Documentary "WARTORN, 1861-2010: Exploring Combat and Post-Traumatic Stress" Debuts on Veterans Day, November 11
HBO Supports Give an Hour™ as Featured Resource
Give an Hour™ is proud to be a featured resource for the HBO special "WARTORN, 1861-2010." "We are grateful for the support of HBO," says Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, founder and president of Give an Hour™. "I have seen this powerful film and encourage everyone to watch it. James Gandolfini, as he did with Alive Day Memories, has done a tremendous job in defining the psychological and emotional effects of war as normal reactions to traumatic experiences. This documentary will be extremely helpful to our returning troops, their families, and our communities. We must all understand the consequences of war if we are to support the warriors who come home."
Civil War doctors called it hysteria, melancholia, and insanity. During World War I, it was known as shell-shock. By World War II, it became combat fatigue. Today, it is clinically known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a crippling anxiety that results from exposure to life-threatening situations such as combat.
With suicide rates among active military servicemen and veterans currently on the rise, the HBO special "WARTORN, 1861-2010" brings urgent attention to the invisible wounds of war. Drawing on personal stories of American soldiers whose lives and psyches were torn asunder by the horrors of battle and PTSD, the documentary chronicles the lingering effects of combat stress and post-traumatic stress on military personnel and their families throughout American history, from the Civil War through today's conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The documentary shares stories through soldiers' revealing letters and journals; photographs and combat footage; first-person interviews with veterans of WWII (who are speaking about their PTSD for the first time), the Vietnam War, Operation Desert Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom; and interviews with family members of soldiers with PTSD. Also included are insightful conversations between Gandolfini and top U.S. military personnel (General Ray Odierno, commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, and General Peter Chiarelli, Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army), enlisted men in Iraq, and medical experts working at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. Gen. Chiarelli, who is working to reduce the rising suicide rate in the Army comments, "You're fighting a culture that doesn't believe that injuries you can't see can be as serious as injuries that you can see."
The HBO Documentary Films presentation debuts on Veterans Day, Thursday, November 11 (9:00-10:15 p.m. ET/PT), exclusively on HBO.
See more at http://www.hbo.com/documentaries/wartorn-1861-2010/index.html.
Give an Hour™ Hits the Big Screen
Our public service announcement is going to run before every movie in several theaters across the country from November 5, 2010, to January 13, 2011.
Watch for us at the following theaters:
Reading San Diego Gaslamp
Reading Town Square
Carmike Colorado Springs
Harkins Denver Cinemas
Muvico Centro Tampa
Premiere Cinemas Orlando
Carmike El Paso
Rave Fort Worth
Regal Majestic Silver Spring
Regal Suffolk Hampton Roads
Alan Cumming Hosts Benefit for Give an Hour™
Actor Alan Cumming hosted a private screening of the BBC show "Who Do You Think You Are" in New York on November 7, 2010.
The show unearthed the life story of Alan's maternal grandfather, Tommy Darling. "He was always a bit of an enigma, and so when I was asked to take part in the program, I hoped I would be able to finally unravel the mystery," says Alan. "And I did. But in a way that I could never possibly have imagined and which was literally shocking."
Alan decided to host a screening as a way to share this story with his friends and to commemorate his grandad's life and death. Because his grandfather was a life-long soldier, Alan decided to make this a fundraiser and to donate the money to Give an Hour™. "Give an Hour™ is a charity that I so wish he had access to during his short life," notes Alan.
GAH's Barbara Van Dahlen and Katherine Wilkins attended the event and are pictured with Alan above.
You can read more about Alan Cumming at www.alancumming.com.
Celia Straus Joins Give an Hour™ as Director of Special Projects
We are thrilled to welcome Celia Straus, dedicated GAH consultant and volunteer, as the director of special projects for Give an Hour™.
Celia is an author, award-winning producer, and instructional designer for print, film, multimedia, and the Web with extensive experience in storytelling using both documentary and dramatic formats. Her areas of special expertise include adolescents, mental health, military issues, and disaster-response and crisis training. Her work has won over 100 national awards including five Cine Gold Eagles as well as an Emmy for "The Man Who Loved the Stars," starring Ossie Davis (1989). Her work can be viewed at www.eyeshaventseen.com.
Her most recent book, Hidden Battles on Unseen Fronts: Stories of American Soldiers with PTSD and TBI (Casemate Publishing, 2009), is the culmination of four years of interviews with OIF/OEF veterans and mental health professionals. She is working on her second book, When the War Comes Home: Stories of Wounded Warriors and Their Search for Work (Casemate, 2011), with the National Organization on Disability and DoD's Army Wounded Warrior Program.
Celia served as content designer and primary writer and producer on the American Red Cross's "Fulfilling Our Mission," the 2006 disaster response training for all employees and volunteers nationwide; the award-winning children's series "Masters of Disaster" (K-8); and the video segments of the U.S. Army's ACAP Transition CBT program and the U.S. Army's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR). In 2007 she coscripted and coproduced "Broke, the American Dream," a documentary on behavioral finance (www.brokemovie.com). She previously scripted and produced the award-winning documentary "Ruthie B Ruthie B," which premiered at the Nantucket Film Festival in 1998. Celia is also a nationally known author and workshop facilitator on adolescent girls and spiritual parenting. She has written the national bestseller Prayers on My Pillow: Inspiration for Girls on The Threshold of Change (Ballantine 1998), More Prayers On My Pillow: Words of Comfort and Hope for Girls on the Journey to Self (Ballantine 2000), and an interactive parenting guide The Mother Daughter Circle: Making Lifelong Connections with Your Teenager (Ballantine, 2003), www.motherdaughtercircle.com.
Her poetry has been transformed into scrapbooks sold on QVC, monthly and annual calendars, and the spoken word CD "I'm More Than What I Seem" with talent provided by internationally acclaimed actresses such as Annette Bening, Blythe Danner, Kathleen Turner, Judy Ivey, Christine Baranski, and Amy Irving.
The multitalented Celia is a graduate of Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia and holds a Master's in Literature from Georgetown University. She lives in Washington, D.C.
From Warrior to Healer
Give an Hour™ spokesperson John "Medicine Bear" Radell shares his story (as excerpted from Celia Straus's book Hidden Battles on Unseen Fronts)
John Radell deployed for war in Iraq with the California National Guard's 1498th Transportation Company, on May 15, 2003. He was 35 and had served in the early 1990s with a Special Forces unit. His mission in Iraq was to supply, service, live in, drive, and provide protection for Heavy Equipment Transporter Systems, recovering and hauling everything from M-1 battle tanks and Humvees to Port-o-Johns across war-torn Iraq. He would be attacked, ambushed, blinded in sand storms, swelter in 130-degree heat, and perform two-week long dangerous convoy missions without adequate body armor, radios, or supplies--even, at times, basic parts to his truck such as cab doors that could open and shut. By the time he was injured on July 22, 2003, he had either experienced first-hand or observed enough violence, killing, torture, and mayhem to sear his psyche forever.
"Camp Liberty in Kuwait was a grim, hot, sandy tent-city. Despite what they told us at briefings, each time our supply convoy went out, the action changed to front-line combat conditions. This was nothing remotely like simple supply runs. To make things more disorienting our rules of engagement changed on a daily basis." Most roads held the potential of ambush and some, like the highway between Baghdad and the airport, guaranteed a drive fraught with danger. John got used to living out of the truck for 15 days at a time and driving for days without sleep in dust so thick he could seldom see the truck in front of him.
Since he was trained as a weapons specialist, it wasn't long before he was moved from the driver's seat to the turret of a converted HMVEE with a 50 mm machine gun in hand instead of a steering wheel. On his "Alive Day" the convoy was traveling north to Mosul to supply the 4th Infantry when an IED hit the truck in front of the one John was protecting. It was the start of an ambush. For an instant he could neither see nor hear, the blast was so close. Moments later a bullet from an AK47 slammed into his right leg just below the knee. "At the time I was oblivious to my injury. We were in the midst of a fire fight, and guys were going down all around me."
A medic treated the bullet wound, and John went back to business until the convoy made it back to their Forward Operating Base almost a week later. "There was a lot of frustration over the red tape during our missions. We lost 15 guys in the time I was there. We'd be in the midst of an RPG attack and be taking 20 or 30 rounds and then we'd have to call in for permission to engage the enemy: 'Would it be appropriate to return fire? We have two men down.' I felt like here we are, soldiers trained to fight, and all we can do is to watch our comrades fall by the wayside." His frustration built up over the months as it became more and more difficult to tell who was friendly and who was not. "We knew not everyone was the enemy but no one told us how to tell the difference. I wound up killing a twelve year old boy because I thought he was an insurgent getting ready to throw a grenade. I killed a man and his wife and the small child she was holding in her arms when their car wouldn't stop at our roadblock. When reality set in and I realized what I had done and was a part of, I tried to talk to my superiors but they basically said, 'Suck it up and drive on.' It's one of those demons I'll always live with as a soldier."
It wasn't until almost a month later that John was flown back to the United States. "I was in crazy pain but they told me to perform my duties, so that's what I did. When I got back to Fort Lewis they fixed my leg and discovered damage to my eye and ears due to the blast. But my worst injury was Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and no one recognized that condition, not even me, not back in 2003." He would spend the next year fighting for his sanity.
"The year at Fort Lewis was bad. My first therapist was an Army Major who refused to believe I had PTSD. She thought that it all related back to being spanked as a child. I got so angry that I slapped her. She pressed charges for that and I almost got an article 15. Instead they labeled me 'unstable' and didn't allow me off the base." At one point John was reviewed by a medical board to see if he was capable of being redeployed to Iraq but was deemed "a threat to the military" and "suffering from a moral flexibility." "It was only so long that I could be an emotional drone. I trained so long and so hard that I did what I was told, totally cut off from my emotions. But eventually it came back to haunt me. I had to pay for all that."
On February 1, 2004, John was retired from the Army with 100% disability, 70% of which was PTSD. It would be years before his Traumatic Brain Injury from repeated exposure to IED blasts would show up in a CATScan prescribed because he'd lost all feeling in his right arm. He returned to his family in Oceanside, California, a changed man. "I couldn't relate to anyone when I first got home. I couldn't hold my wife or my fifteen-year-old daughter. I felt like I was stained. I saw blood on my hands. I had night terrors. I've been prescribed up to 13 medications a day in various combinations depending on my levels of anxiety and depression." After four years of intense therapy, sometimes as often as three times a week, he is coping better with his level four PTSD but still grapples with his "evil twins, general anxiety and panic attacks."
Early on he also knew his PTSD was affecting his marriage. While he sat paralyzed with anxiety and depression, his wife, Aiyana, was left to run the household and take care of everything from finances to children to pets. When John overdrew their bank account with his debit card, they decided she would give him a monthly allowance instead. By 2007 they were wise enough to get some marriage counseling. "There were only so many times that she could hear the same excuse, 'I've got PTSD.' We had to work through the issues. Now I have a weekly chore list I'm supposed to do, but I still forget about it, and that causes trouble." In the fall of 2008 John and Aiyana separated.
Today John is clear about who he is and what he wants to do. "I am John Medicine Bear Whitebow. I am of native indigenous ancestry from the Midwest, born and raised in California. My ancestral roots are of the Blackfoot, Yaqui, and Cherokee tribes, and I am a member of a non-federally recognized tribe. I am a descendant of medicine people, and I am also a medicine man. I have a vision to create a sanctuary where one can go to get away from the hectic lifestyle that modern life brings and become centered once again, where one can leave stress behind and seek the welcoming shelter of a sacred place that our Mother Earth has prepared for us.
To learn more about the Rainbow People's Medicine Lodge Sanctuary started by John, please visit: http://rpmlmedicinelodge.org.
Give an Hour™ Provider Spotlight
Dr. Arnold "Arnie" S. Marks is a psychotherapist and Give an Hour™ provider from Dallas, Texas, where he has been offering his services to veterans with mental health issues almost since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began. He also travels around the country providing mental health support to service members and their families for the Department of Defense. So when it comes to OIF/OEF veterans returning from combat with post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury, he's seen a lot, heard a lot, and helped a lot.
"I believe that one of the most enduring challenges to helping these service members is the sheer amount of help they need across the board," Arnie says. Usually the person is in need of services in addition to mental health care--"from financial to marital, employment, education, substance abuse, you name it." Arnie obtains his referrals from veterans service organizations, the Army Wounded Warrior program, and other social service agencies in the Dallas area. "I got a referral from one of the VSOs and immediately reached out to this soldier who had been called up for Iraq as a reservist," Arnie recalls. "The guy was flat, disconnected, and disengaged. Even though he was a poor historian and his story never quite fit together, it was obvious after the first couple of sessions that he had significant TBI issues. But no one had evaluated him. He had been languishing without support for a long time. As a retired Army E6 Sergeant he was eligible for the AW2 (Army Wounded Warrior) program, so I made a call" and ultimately got the soldier a neurological evaluation and the medical support he needed.
During a six-week visit to Scofield Barracks in Hawaii, Arnie was providing mental health support to service members and their families when he met a young couple coping with the soldier's extreme PTSD as he reintegrated into the civilian community. The soldier was quick to anger, hypervigilant, anxious, and suffering from sleeplessness and night terrors. The session took place in a consulting room in the base library. "Rather than explain what he had experienced down range to give him PTSD, " Arnie says, "the soldier went to a library shelf and pulled out a book and said to me, 'Here, Sir, right on this page, see here? This, is why I am the way I am.' The book was Sebastian Junger's nonfiction book War, about the year he was embedded with a platoon in the mountains of Afghanistan. This soldier was an integral character in the book, a scout who saw his battle buddy killed in combat." In cases like this one, Arnie suggests that the soldier obtain mental health care from military sources such as Army mental health and the VA. "I urge them to get into the system so their behavioral health conditions are documented," he says.
"This is only one example of the tremendous responsibility we as a nation acquire when we determine to send our young men and women to war and they return home with mental health issues like PTSD and TBI."
GAH Now Part of National Capital Area Combined Federal Campaign
Give an Hour™ is pleased to participate in the National Capitol Area's annual Combined Federal Campaign (CFC). Our CFC number is 65498.
The Combined Federal Campaign is the world's largest and most successful annual workplace charity campaign, with more than 200 CFC campaigns throughout the country and internationally to help to raise millions of dollars each year. Pledges made by federal civilian, postal, and military donors during the campaign season (September 1 to December 15) support eligible nonprofit organizations that provide health and human service benefits throughout the world.
If you work for the federal government in the greater Washington area, this is an easy way for you to support GAH. Your tax-deductible donation will go directly to our services for military families.
If you don't work for the federal government but have friends, families members, or neighbors who do, please spread the word. Tell them to use our CFC number, 65498, to designate GAH as their charity of choice.
American Psychological Association Releases Study on Stress in America
As the U.S. economy continues to struggle for the third year, findings from the 2010 Stress in America survey paint a picture of an overstressed nation. Feeling the effects of prolonged financial and other recession-related difficulties, Americans are struggling to balance work and home life and make time to engage in healthy behaviors, with stress not only taking a toll on their personal physical health but also affecting the emotional and physical well-being of their families.
Children and adults alike who are obese or overweight are more likely to feel stress, and overweight children are more likely to report that their parents were often or always stressed over the past month. Children, regardless of weight or age, say they can tell that their parents are stressed when they argue and complain, which many children say makes them feel sad and worried. Parents, however, are not fully realizing the impact their own stress is having on their children.
In general, Americans recognize that their stress levels remain high and exceed what they consider to be healthy. Adults seem to understand the importance of healthy behaviors like managing their stress levels, eating right, getting enough sleep, and exercising, but they report experiencing challenges practicing these healthy behaviors. They report being too busy as the primary barrier preventing them from better managing their stress, and a lack of motivation, energy, and time as the chief reasons for not being more physically active. In 2009 and again this year, lacking willpower was cited as a barrier to adopting healthy behaviors when lifestyle changes were recommended by a health care provider. Yet the majority believes willpower can be learned as well as improved, if they only had more energy and confidence.
The survey found that although reported average stress levels have remained much the same as they were last year, fewer adults report being satisfied with the ways that their employer helps employees balance work and nonwork demands and, in general, concern about job stability is on the rise.
Survey findings have consistently shown that the majority of Americans are living with moderate (4-7 on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 means you have little or no stress and 10 means you have a great deal of stress) or high (8-10 on a scale of 1 to 10) levels of stress, and while they understand that this is not healthy, they are stymied in their efforts to make changes.
See the full report here: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/indexx.
Call for Kids Art to Display at
National Naval Medical Center
The National Museum of the Marine Corps is collecting original works of art from kids to display in the Wounded Warrior wing of the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. The artwork will be hung so that wounded troops can see it as they recover from war injuries. Messages or pictures should be done on standard 8 1/2 x 11 paper. On the back, please put name, hometown, and grade. Parents can then mail these BEFORE November 30 to:
National Museum of the Marine Corpss
Att: Teacher in Residence
18900 Jefferson Davis Highway
Triangle, VA 22172
Find more information at www.usmcmuseum.org/WW_art_flyer.pdf.
American Psychological Association Features Give an Hour™ as Resource for Military Personnel and Their Families
Active duty military and family members of those deployed to
Iraq and Afghanistan often experience a great deal of stress. Because of this and APA's focus on the importance of resilience
in everyday life, APA has developed a series of brochures based on its Road to Resilience and Mind/Body Health campaigns that teach resilience skills to better manage war-related distress.
In addition to these resources, APA lists GAH and supports our efforts to provide pro bono psychological services for return military.
To access these resources, visit http://www.apa.org/practice/programs/campaign/resources-for-troopsx.
In honor of Veterans Day, will you consider making a tax-deductible donation to Give an Hour™?
If you are interested in individual or corporate giving, please contact Katherine Wilkins, director of development, at [email protected].
Or, you may make an online donation here: https://www.networkforgood.org/donation/ExpressDonationx?ORGID2=611493378
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