Impact Iraq and Afghanistan wars have had on military families

By signing a proclamation each year, the president declares November Military Family Month. The month serves as a way to show gratitude to the nation’s military service members and their families for their sacrifices. “During Military Family Month, we pay tribute to and thank our military families for their service to our country, and we recognize the extraordinary ways in which they give of themselves for us all,” President Obama said in this year’s proclamation.

This month’s In Focus series will highlight efforts by those connected to the military community to bring awareness and solutions to the challenges military families face.

In Focus: Impact Iraq and Afghanistan wars have had on military families



Portrait of Barbara Van Dahlen, '87, Ph.D. '91, clinical psychologist and Founder/President of Give an Hour.  Fearless Ideas Campaign, 2013.

Barbara Van Dahlen, Ph.D.
Founder and President
Give an Hour

Barbara Van Dahlen, named to TIME magazine’s 2012 list of the 100 most influential people in the world, is the founder and president of Give an Hour. A licensed clinical psychologist who has been practicing in the Washington, D.C., area for over 20 years, she received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Maryland in 1991.

Concerned about the mental health implications of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Dr. Van Dahlen founded Give an Hour in 2005. The organization has created a national network of mental health professionals who provide free services to U.S. troops, veterans, their loved ones, and their communities. Currently, the network has nearly 7,000 providers, who have collectively given over $17 million worth of services.

As part of her work with Give an Hour, Dr. Van Dahlen has joined numerous panels, conferences, and hearings on issues facing veterans. A featured speaker at the October 2012 TEDxMidAtlantic “Be Fearless” event, Dr. Van Dahlen has participated in discussions at the Pentagon, Department of Veterans Affairs, White House, and Congress, for example appearing on the White House June 2013 panel about mental health in America and testifying in March of 2013 before the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on the topic “VA Mental Health Care: Ensuring Timely Access to High-Quality Care.”

Dr Van Dahlen and Give an Hour are now also leading the Campaign to Change Direction, a national initiative to change the culture of mental health in America, which launched in March 2015 with First Lady Michelle Obama as keynote speaker.  In order to reach this ambitious goal and encourage people to pay attention to their emotional well-being, Give an Hour and its partners are promoting a simple concept and creating a common frame, encouraging all Americans to learn Five Signs that someone they know may be suffering emotionally. In only six months, the campaign has grown to over 180 organizational partners who have already reached over 15 million Americans.

Dr. Van Dahlen and Give an Hour have received numerous awards. In addition to her selection in the 2012 TIME 100, in April 2012 Give an Hour was chosen as one of the five winners of the White House’s Joining Forces Community Challenge, sponsored by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden. Dr. Van Dahlen’s earlier awards include WJLA 2009 Working Woman of the Year and the American Psychiatric Association’s 2009 Rosalee Weiss Distinguished Public Service award. In 2010 she was cited as one of Woman’s Day magazine’s 50 Women Who Are Changing the World, received the Maryland Governor’s Volunteer Service Award, and was selected as a featured speaker at the annual Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy. In 2013 she received the American Psychological Association’s Presidential Citation and the Richard Cornuelle Award for Social Entrepreneurship of the Manhattan Institute. In 2014 she was named a Woman of Distinction by the Coastal Bend Women Lawyers Association, named to More Magazine’s Fierce 50 list, and honored by the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army as an outstanding civilian who has made significant voluntary contributions to our military.

She has become a notable source and expert on the psychological impact of war on troops and families and a thought leader in mobilizing civilian constituencies to create large system change. She has been interviewed by major media outlets such as AP, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Newsweek, Time, USA Today, CNN, NPR, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, Newshour, and such military media outlets as Stars & Stripes, AUSA Magazine, and the Pentagon Channel.