Today is Veterans Day in the U.S. – a day we honor people who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. I want to express my deep appreciation and gratitude to our veterans and military families. Without the dedication, sacrifice, commitment and love for country from these individuals, our world would be a very different place.
I am honored and privileged to work with veterans through my role in corporate responsibility. Whether working on projects with Edelman employees who are veterans, with the new generation of veteran entrepreneurs through The Bunker Labs, with student veterans through my position on the Honorary Board of Directors of Student Veterans of America, or with veteran service organizations like Give an Hour, I know firsthand that our veterans represent the best of what America is all about.
I want to echo the words of Joe Klein, author of the new book Charlie Mike, who spoke at a Fireside Chat for Give an Hour at the Embassy of Canada last Tuesday: “Thank you for your service and for what you are continuing to do.”
Last Wednesday, I had the privilege to attend Give an Hour’s 10th Anniversary Celebration of Service, where I was honored with a Commitment to Service Award for my involvement with Give an Hour and its mental health awareness initiative, The Campaign to Change Direction. I dedicated this award to my mom and dad, who instilled in me the strong values and principles that our veterans live every day, thus enabling each of us to live as we do.
For the past 14 months, Edelman has proudly been involved with Give an Hour as the communications partner for The Campaign to Change Direction – an effort to change the narrative of mental health in America. Give an Hour is a non-profit organization founded 10 years ago by Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen with the mission to provide free mental health support to veterans of the U.S. Military and their family members. In its first 10 years, the Give an Hour network of more than 7,000 mental health professionals has provided over 170,000 hours of free mental health services to veterans and their families.
It is not only veterans and military families who are suffering from mental illness. It seems that every day, we hear about tragedies related to mental illness. In fact, 1 in 5 Americans has a diagnosable mental health condition and more Americans are expected to die this year by suicide than in car accidents.
Mental health also is an economic issue. According to a Harvard School of Public Health study prepared for the Davos World Economic Forum in 2011, “the global cost of mental health conditions in 2010 was estimated at $2.5 trillion USD, with the cost projected to increase to $6 trillion USD by 2030.”
Edelman partnered with Give an Hour to create a common language about mental well-being. Known as the Five Signs, this common language aims to make it as easy to recognize the signs that someone is suffering emotionally as it is to recognize the signs of physical suffering, like a heart attack or stroke. Working with 180 public, private and non-profit partners, the Campaign to Change Direction has reached more than 15 million Americans to date.
Despite this tremendous progress, there is still more to do. We look forward to working with Give an Hour and others to help veterans and all Americans get the support they need and change the way we think and talk about mental health.
John Edelman is managing director of global engagement and corporate responsibility.