National Military Family Association, Give an Hour and United Health Foundation to Launch Initiative Supporting Military Spouse Mental Health Professionals

May 25, 2016
  • United Health Foundation donates $200,000 to fund the Military Spouse Mental Health Profession Network, which will strengthen resources available to military spouses pursuing careers in behavioral health

  • Capitol Hill forum brings together experts to discuss shortage of mental health professionals in the military community

The National Military Family Association (NMFA), a nonprofit that works to strengthen and protect military families, along with Give an Hour, a nonprofit that provides free mental health services to military members, veterans, and their families, announced a new initiative with United Health Foundation to support military spouses pursuing careers in behavioral health.

The initiative was announced today during a forum on Capitol Hill – Growing Our Own:  Supporting Military Spouses as They Join the Mental Health Profession – where military and veteran experts, members of Congress, including Congressman Chris Gibson, and military spouse support organizations discussed unique challenges facing military members and veterans, and ways to enhance the program's development. 

The Military Spouse Mental Health Profession Network, funded in part through a $200,000 grant from United Health Foundation to NMFA's Military Spouse Education + Professional Support Program, will help alleviate the national shortage of mental health providers, which is exacerbated in the military community.

"We simply do not have enough mental health professionals to meet the unique behavioral health needs of service members, veterans and their families," said Brad Carson, former Acting Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. "There is an estimated shortage of about nearly 20,000 mental health professionals in the United States, and that number is expected to grow in the next several years. The work of these nonprofit organizations will help fill that gap that affects our military community."

The Network will help spouses connect with peers, identify accredited graduate programs, secure clinical supervision and licensure, and connect with potential loan and repayment options and job-seeking resources.

"Military spouses struggle to enter the mental health profession due to frequent moves and other lifestyle challenges," said NMFA Executive Director Joyce Wessel Raezer. "United Health Foundation's investment in military spouses will lead to counseling and mental health support for thousands of military families."

The Network will also help military spouses complete their education and pursue rewarding careers in primary health care, while building a support network that will provide mentoring and other support services to assist military spouses with their transition into mental health professions.

"We are proud to partner with NMFA and United Health Foundation on this critical effort," said Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, Founder and President of Give an Hour. "The need for mental health care is not unique to the military and veteran community, but those who serve have experiences and face challenges that can place them at greater risk for a number of mental health issues. Through this network, we have the opportunity to support military spouses as they pursue their professional goals while expanding the pool of much needed mental health professionals throughout the country."

"As a veteran, and as the husband of a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, I am proud to recognize the National Military Family Association, Give an Hour, and the United Health Foundation for their strong support of military spouses seeking to enter the field of behavioral health," said Congressman Chris Gibson (NY-19). "Mary Jo and I know how important it is for our troops to connect with caregivers who understand military life, including the incredible stress that families experience during and after deployments overseas. This program will help grow the ranks of qualified mental health professionals and give more military spouses the ability to pursue work in this critical vocation."

"We must work together to help alleviate the stresses on mental health that our nation's service members, veterans and their families endure every day," said Chris Stidman, President of United Health Foundation. "This partnership is an important step in developing a future health workforce that can help address the growing behavioral health needs of our nation's heroes and their families."

About the National Military Family Association:

The National Military Family Association is the leading nonprofit dedicated to serving the families who stand behind the uniform. Since 1969, NMFA has worked to strengthen and protect millions of families through its advocacy and programs. They provide spouse scholarships, camps for military kids, and retreats for families reconnecting after deployment and for the families of the wounded, ill, or injured. NMFA serves the families of the currently serving, retired, wounded or fallen members of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Commissioned Corps of the USPHS and NOAA. More than 600 applicants to NMFA's 2016 Military Spouse Scholarship Program are entering the mental health field, which represents approximately 10% of those who applied.  More than 20% of those entering the profession are spouses of wounded or fallen service members, citing their desire to help others through mentally stressful periods they've experienced firsthand. To learn more about the Military Spouse Mental Health Profession Network visit

About Give an Hour: 

Give an Hour a nonprofit 501(c)(3) providing free mental health services to military members, veterans and their families, was founded in September 2005 by Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, a psychologist in the Washington, D.C., area. Give an Hour has been instrumental in the development of the community-based approach to address the challenges that face our nation's military community, having created a successful model for harnessing skill-based volunteers eager to offer their services. Thus far, the network of nearly 7,000 licensed mental health professionals has provided more than 185,000 hours of care and support to those in need. Give an Hour is now leading the Campaign to Change Direction, a collective impact effort to change the culture of mental health in America. Give an Hour and its partners address common barriers to understanding mental health and raise awareness about the signs of emotional suffering. For additional information on Give an Hour please visit

About United Health Foundation: 

Through collaboration with community partners, grants and outreach efforts, United Health Foundation works to improve our health system, build a diverse and dynamic health workforce and enhance the well-being of local communities. United Health Foundation was established by UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) in 1999 as a not-for-profit, private foundation dedicated to improving health and health care. To date, United Health Foundation has committed more than $285 million to programs and communities around the world. We invite you to learn more at or follow @UHGGives on Twitter or