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America Supports You: Group Lets Troops Know It’s ‘Hear 4 You’

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 23, 2007 – A group that supports wounded servicemembers and their families is offering troops a friendly ear with its newest program, “Hear 4 You.”

The no-cost program that launched Aug. 1 aims to develop a network of volunteers to listen to military personnel and their families affected by post-deployment stress and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The program is one of many services offered by Silver Star Families of America, which supports families of wounded servicemembers. The group is a supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad.

“We are just there to listen,” Janie Orman, Silver Star Families of America’s vice president, said. “We are not counseling. We want everyone to know that. We don’t take the place of a (mental health) professional in any way.”

Thirteen Silver Star Families of America volunteers man e-mail or instant-messaging accounts to answer concerns of servicemembers. Military personnel or family members wishing talk to a volunteer through the Hear 4 You program can follow the link from the Silver Star Families of America Web site, www.silverstarfamilies.org. The program’s Web site shows which volunteers are online at any given moment.

All volunteers have received training in how to spot signs of post-traumatic stress disorder or suicidal thoughts, Orman said.

“In that particular area, if we feel or get a sense of that in any way, we advise them … to seek help,” she said. “If needed, we’ll try to help them find that right then.”

Such help might be found through the “Give an Hour” program, a national network of mental health professionals who volunteer an hour a week to respond to the needs of the military community. Give an Hour has recently partnered with Silver Star Families of America.

The terms of use each participant must agree to before being allowed to contact a volunteer also encourage individuals to call 911 if they’re having suicidal or homicidal thoughts.

The Hear 4 You program took root when the Silver Star Families of America members realized how many e-mails they were receiving from servicemembers or family members wanting to talk. This concerned the members, Orman said.

“We set up the Hear 4 You program based on that,” she said. The program is especially important to several Silver Star Families of America members who have sons suffering from PTSD.

“They’re trying to encourage their own kids to at least talk,” Orman said. “They feel like if (servicemembers) can just talk some of this out, it may help them in some way.”

The organization is hoping the program’s base in anonymity will encourage servicemembers to open up without fear of retribution.

“We’ve been told … that a lot of them feel like it’s easier to talk to someone they don’t know,” she said. “I know there’s a Department of Defense hotline and a (Veterans Affairs) hotline, but sometimes they feel like they might face repercussions (if they go through formal channels).

“We would love to see it really grow and … make some type of difference,” she added.

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Related Sites:
Hear 4 You
Silver Star Families of America
America Supports You


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