By Michael J.R. Schindler, Chief Executive Officer, Operation Military Family
Staying connected – and in relationship – could be the cure you need to your health issues.
In times of crisis, uncertainty, and stress, the desire to isolate, pull away, and consume more alcohol increases, and in some cases, by more than 30 percent. In early 2020, with COVID-19 spreading rapidly across the U.S., many schools, businesses, and military institutions closed their doors to traditional practices of staying connected. Suddenly, most of the world went into isolation and lost social connection.
Many individuals struggled to cope with the new reality – and the impacts to social connection and mental health were – and will likely continue to be – considerable. According to a study from the American Psychological Association, the lack of social connection heightens health risks as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
What the global pandemic made crystal clear is that staying connected is vital.
Mindy Altschul, LCSW, Assistant Vice President Clinical Quality, Hackensack Meridian Health Carrier Clinic, recently shared that, “Being connected to others socially is considered an important human need and is vital to one’s well-being.”
According to J. Holt-Lunstad, who was referenced in The Annual Review of Psychology, “having positive social connections can help people to improve and maintain good mental health.”
So, there is little doubt that staying connected can in fact add value to both your mental and emotional health. Fortunately, the world is quickly learning to transition to, and embrace, a digital way of life.
And although computers and handheld devices are common within the American household, millions of rural, urban, and low-income families lack home access to broadband internet due to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) policies and their current model of regulating internet access like a utility telephone service (Spector, 2019).
Currently, there are 42 million Americans, including service members and Department of the Army (DA) Civilians, who lack access to broadband internet (Busby & Tanberk, 2021).
But in the Pacific Northwest, Comcast Washington has deployed a one-year pilot program to help connect low-income military and Veteran families to low-cost internet and the benefits and services they’ve earned.
In November 2021, Comcast Washington announced partnerships with three military community organizations in the state of Washington. The company donated $60,000, 150 laptops, and a Digital Skills Ambassador Program. Operation Military Family, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and Western Washington Veterans Affairs received donations. The donations are part of Project UP, Comcast’s $1 billion commitment to reach 50 million people over the next 10 years with the tools, resources, and skills needed to succeed in a digital world.
These donations are part of Comcast’s continued dedication to supporting Veterans, and their families, nationwide, in several ways. Since 2011, Comcast has donated more than $184 million in cash and in-kind contributions to military community organizations.
“We’re honored to partner with military community organizations that make powerful impacts with Veterans across the state of Washington. These organizations help them build digital equity at a time when it has never been more important,” said Carla Carrell, External Affairs Director for Comcast in Washington.
The program was explained in detail in the episode THE POWER OF STAYING CONNECTED / ACCESSING LOW-COST INTERNET FOR VETERANS of The Military Wire.
The need to improve the state of mental and emotional health, and stay connected, has never been more important than now. But like anything good, moderation is important. A “digital sunset” should also be part of your day – learning to “unplug” and find those quiet moments is just important. Just not for long periods of time.
For those Veterans who live in Washington State and are interested in participating in the Digital Equity Program with Operation Military Family, submit your request and information to www.WASERVES.org and reference both the Digital Equity Program and Operation Military Family. Qualifying Veterans will receive a laptop (while supplies last) along with access to low-cost, high-speed internet, and training.
Since 2012, OMF Community Outreach, dba Operation Military Family, has directly helped thousands of Veterans and their families connect to benefits and forge proven and effective paths that lead to success in family, work, and life through its collaborative WASERVES collective impact initiative and the Discovering Your Post-Service Identity program.
Comcast employs more than 21,000 military veterans, and in 2020, Comcast NBCUniversal was ranked number one on Military Times’ “Best for Vets: Employers list.” Comcast’s tradition of hiring and supporting the military community started with founder World War II U.S. Navy veteran Ralph Roberts. Comcast puts significant effort into supporting military Veterans and their families at all stages of their careers, which led to Comcast being named a “Military Friendly Employer” and a “Military Friendly Spouse Employer” by Military Times.