Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.), and former U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Brendan O’Toole were honored in April by Give an Hour, an organization that connects veterans and their families with volunteer mental health service providers. The American Psychiatric Foundation is a major supporter of the organization.
(From left) Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Marine Corps veteran Brendan O’Toole, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, (D-Mich.), and Barbara Van Dahlen, Ph.D., pose at the Give an Hour celebration.
“Senator Stabenow has a social-work degree and has been a tireless advocate for access to care and reducing stigma,” Give an Hour President Barbara Van Dahlen, Ph.D., told Psychiatric News.
She also praised Burr, chair of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, for “his interest and his recognition of the importance of community-based responses, [which] led to hearings that led the Department of Veterans Affairs to hold 152 mental health summits around the country last year.”
O’Toole left the Marine Corps two years ago and decided to raise awareness about military mental health concerns by running across the country. His Run for the Veterans started in California and ended in Maine, by way of Texas, said Van Dahlen. “That really shows the passion, dedication, and commitment of young people.”
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have raised attention to mental health issues both among American troops and the U.S. population as a whole, she said. “We have the opportunity to harness that energy and really get rid of stigma,” she said.
The awards were part of a larger three-day program in Washington, D.C., called a Celebration of Service, which also included a conference to educate the next generation of mental health professionals about issues affecting military service members, veterans, and their families.
The American Psychiatric Foundation (APF) helped sponsor and support the Celebration of Service event for the second consecutive year. “We are very proud to join with
Give an Hour to support its extraordinary efforts to mobilize civilian constituencies to respond to the mental health issues facing our returning veterans and their families,” said APF Executive Director Paul Burke.
“If we expect these young men and women who come home from war to raise their hands and say they need help, we as a nation must do a better job of providing the services they need to return to the productive lives they deserve,” said Van Dahlen. ■