Washington, DC (May 20, 2015)—Give an Hour™ (www.giveanhour.org), a national nonprofit organization providing free mental health services to our nation’s military and veteran community, and the lead organization behind the Campaign to Change Direction, a collective impact effort to change the culture of mental health in America, announces that it will partner with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Mental Health Services Office to disseminate training materials to community mental health providers.
There are more than 23 million military veterans in our country today, in addition to 2.6 million active duty service members, National Guard, and Reservists; 2 million active duty military family members; and 5.5 million military caregivers. Regardless of age, race, gender, or war era, each person—and each family member—develops a unique perspective about his or her time of service. Understandably, this experience creates a worldview that can be difficult to understand for those who have not served. A lack of knowledge about military culture and lifestyle can lead veterans and family members to drop out of mental health care prematurely.
Dr. Harold Kudler, VA’s Chief Consultant for Mental Health Services remarks, “Once they hang up their uniforms, Veterans often become invisible within the civilian world, and this can negatively impact the care that Veterans receive in the community. Despite their many strengths, Veterans may have been exposed to unique health risks and may carry visible or invisible injuries specific to military service. Research shows that most civilian healthcare providers fail to ask about military history. Therefore important conversations about health, readjustment and eligibility for VA and other resources simply aren’t happening. That’s why every healthcare provider should take the training offered in the free DoD/VA Military Cultural Competence course and learn how to talk with Veterans and their loved ones about military experience. We are proud to be partnering with Give an Hour in this national effort,”
“For the last 10 years, Give an Hour has been proud to provide free mental health care to returning troops, veterans, and their families. We are honored to partner with our colleagues at VA to ensure that our community mental health providers are equipped with the knowledge and tools they need for this important work,” says Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, founder and president of Give an Hour. “Ensuring that those who serve, our veterans, our military caregivers and the families of the fallen have access to well-trained mental health professionals is one way we are working with the VA and others to change the culture of mental health in America,” she adds.
Recently, RAND released a comprehensive report that found that few community-based providers met criteria for military cultural competency or used evidence-based approaches to treat problems commonly seen among our nation’s 20+ million veterans.
To address this issue, the Departments of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) developed a course entitled Military Culture: Core Competencies for Healthcare Professionals to help health care professionals more effectively work with service members and veterans. Through the course, which offers up to 8 free continuing education credits for a wide range of professions, providers can assess their own competence with military culture and educate themselves on military ethos, organizational structure, and life chapters, as well as unique stressors and the impact on a patient’s health and assessment and treatment issues. They can also gain access to resources and tools for both providers and patients.
The course is designed as a comprehensive training in military culture for seasoned practitioners as well as for those less familiar with military populations. The interactive course includes a self-assessment, a variety of vignettes, and candid video testimonials to highlight the meaning of military cultural competence. The course also has handouts on Military Rank, Occupational Codes, and Cultural “Vital Signs” to ask about in an assessment and provides recommendations on Culturally Competent Behaviors, all of which can be printed and kept for reference. There are many additional resources and links for providers to explore.