By Debbie Gregory.
The VFW has recently launched a campaign to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health, raise awareness, foster community engagement, improve research, and provide intervention for veterans, service members, and their loved ones who may be suffering from invisible injuries or emotional stress.
VFW National Commander Brian Duffy kicked off the VFW’s Mental Wellness Campaign with a panel discussion that included Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, founder/president of Give an Hour, One Mind’s chief strategy officer Joan Demetriades, and Jim Murray, director of strategic partnerships for PatientsLikeMe.
“We are proud to be joined by the nation’s leading mental health organizations to help change the veteran’s narrative — the veteran’s brand — which right now has America regarding us more as individual heroes instead of strategic assets in every community,” said Duffy, who is the first Operation Desert Storm veteran to lead the 117-year-old VFW.
The VFW Mental Wellness Campaign leverages the power, influence and reach of nearly 1.7 million members in more than 6,600 VFW Posts around the world with the nation’s leaders in mental health care, research, and peer-to-peer support. Give an Hour has provided free mental health care to service members and their families for 11 years by “harnessing civilian mental health professionals and asking them to step up and give service, give their time to provide care,” according to Van Dahlen. The nonprofit also launched its Campaign to Change Direction nearly two years ago in an effort to “change the greater culture” surrounding mental health. MilitaryConnection.com is a long-time partner of Give an Hour, and has made the pledge to support Change Direction.
Non-profit One Mind also aims to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. One Mind is building online communities to help those affected by PTS and TBI to connect, learn, share with others, track their progress, become better informed and advocate more effectively for their own health and the health of those they love.
PatientsLikeMe allows users to share symptoms, treatment info, and health outcomes. The website turns information into millions of data points, and then aggregates and organizes the data to reveal new insights. They then share back what they’ve learned with everyone and share the patient experience with the industry so they can develop better products, services, and care.