Your Service Member’s Well-Being: Mental Health Services for the Military

Married couple talking on dock

Service members thrive when they are both physically and mentally fit. But stress, relationship concerns, sleep problems, grief and other issues can affect a service member’s focus. The Department of Defense prioritizes the psychological well-being of service members and offers a number of mental health services for the military.

Mental health services in the military

There are many resources available for mental health support for service members and spouses. These include:

  • TRICARE or your service member’s nearest military treatment facility. Therapy may be available through TRICARE, the health care program for service members and their families. Your service member’s primary care manager can also make a referral to a military treatment facility or network provider.
  • InTransition offers free specialized coaching and assistance to service members, as well as veterans and retirees, who need access to mental health care during times of transition, such as returning from deployment, relocating to another assignment or preparing to leave military service.
  • Non-medical counseling is available through the Military and Family Life Counseling Program at your service member’s installation. This free and confidential service is also available through Military OneSource by calling 800-342-9647. International calling options can be found here.
  • Chill Drills is a free wellness app created for the military community by a therapist who works with service members and their families. It is a collection of simple audio mindfulness exercises to relax the body and mind.

Talking with your service member about their mental health

It can be difficult to know what to do when a loved one is stressed or trying to cope with a new challenge. Being far away can make it harder to help. If your service member is experiencing stress or behavioral changes, you can reassure them they have options to get confidential help.

  • Talk about the importance of overall health. Staying in top condition means taking care of yourself mentally as well as physically. Both are vital to a strong military.
  • Talk about any doubts your service member may have about speaking with someone. If your service member is ashamed or afraid that seeking help will damage their career, let them know that they are far from alone. Many successful people – military leaders included – have overcome challenges by reaching out for help. The Department of Defense has taken actions to eliminate negative stereotypes about mental health problems.
  • Remind your service member that seeking help is a sign of strength. Reaching out is a positive step toward addressing stress, anxiety or any other issue that affects their well-being.

If your service member needs immediate help, the Military Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day. Call 800-273-8255 and press 1, or access online chat by texting 838255.

No one should suffer mental health challenges in silence. With your support and encouragement, your service member can get the help they need to improve their well-being and live life to the fullest.

Talking to Your Teen About Substance Abuse

Father with arm around son

Substance abuse happens everywhere, including on and off military installations. Recent studies indicate that military children have higher rates of drug and alcohol use as well as a higher risk of developing an addiction. There are steps you can take to help reduce your child’s risk for substance abuse.

How can I talk to my teen about substance abuse?

The dangers of teen substance use include impaired driving, future health problems and increased susceptibility to addiction. Here are a few tips to help you discuss drug use with your teen:

  • Talk now. It might seem like your pre-teens are too young for a serious talk about substance abuse, but research shows that it’s not uncommon for children to be offered drugs or alcohol before turning 13.
  • Talk often. Make conversations with your child a regular, frequent practice. The more you talk to your child or teen about all topics, the easier it will be to discuss difficult topics on a regular basis.
  • Embrace honesty. Be prepared to answer questions about your experience with drugs and show your own vulnerability. Sharing your own experiences or being open about any family history can make the conversation more relatable and allow your teen to learn from the past.
  • Talk and listen. A two-way conversation may likely resonate better with your teen. It’s important your child feels comfortable sharing his or her opinions, concerns or questions with you. Also, try discussing serious topics during side-by-side activities, like folding laundry, preparing dinner or driving. These activities take the focus off the teen and place it on the topic at hand.
  • Avoid scare tactics. Focus on real risks for commonly abused substances. For example, discuss how marijuana can affect their performance on sports teams or put them at risk for legal trouble, or how alcohol abuse can lead to addiction and future health problems.
  • Be mindful of tone and word choice. Focus on positive word choices so your teen is less defensive. Use “I” statements to express how certain situations or topics make you feel as a parent versus phrasing sentences involving your teen as “you” statements. For example, begin a sentence with “I’m concerned…” instead of “you should never…” or “you always…”
  • Talk one on one. While it’s important for both of the child’s parents to be on the same page and to be part of the conversations about difficult topics, your teen may feel less threatened talking to one parent at a time.
  • Look for teachable moments. From music lyrics to television or movie characters to news reports, opportunities abound to discuss tough topics and situations and how others did or did not handle the challenges they faced.
  • Get real. Brainstorm scenarios in which your teen may be offered drugs or alcohol and work together to come up with some real ways he or she could handle each situation.
  • Stay involved. As with most difficult topics, it’s best to revisit the topic of drug and alcohol use. Get to know your son or daughter’s friends and their friends’ parents. Stay involved in their social activities.

What warning signs should I look out for?

If you think your teen may be at risk for abusing drugs or alcohol, keep an eye out for these warning signs:

  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • New friends and different places to hang out
  • Loss of interest in favorite activities
  • Withdrawal from or hostility toward family members
  • Unfamiliar smells in the home, car or on the teen’s possessions
  • Unexplained need for money and secrecy about where it goes
  • Alcohol bottles, prescription drug bottles or drug paraphernalia in the teen’s room
  • Changes in physical appearance or personality
  • Sudden changes in school performance

Where can I find more resources?

What should I do if my teen needs help?

Teen substance abuse can be linked to parental use and abuse. If you think you need help or if you’re concerned your teen is abusing substances, don’t hesitate to seek professional help to navigate the path to sobriety. As a member of the military community, you and your family members can receive the necessary inpatient or outpatient treatment through TRICARE. Your primary care manager can provide an appropriate referral. If you or someone you know is in crisis, contact the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255, then press 1, or access online chat by texting 838255.

Put your military community’s resources to work for you and your family. You aren’t in this alone.

Staying Healthy During COVID-19

Service member with face mask

Current as of April 16, 2021

It’s normal to cut corners when engaging in everyday activities, especially when you’re comfortable with the task. But to avoid putting yourself and your family at risk during coronavirus disease 2019, examine your habits to make sure you’re not cutting corners on your health.

Perhaps the most important factor when it comes to your habits during this time is to avoid spreading germs.

Keep calm with COVID Coach

This app can help you cope with pandemic-related stress. It’s free, secure and recommended by the Department of Defense.

For specific guidance on everything from personal hygiene to keeping your home clean and avoiding contact with others, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a great resource.

But maintaining good health during the COVID-19 pandemic means following guidance for covering your face in public and considering paying extra attention to your eating habits, exercise and personal schedule.

With that in mind, here are some other things to consider:

Wear cloth face coverings outside your home

Military personnel, families and supporting civilian members serve as role models during extremely challenging times. One way you can do this now is to take steps to protect yourself and others whenever you go out.

The Department of Defense requires face coverings and social distancing on installations and for those performing official duties outside the home. Follow the CDC’s guidance for wearing cloth face coverings and for social distancing at all other times as well. These practices can slow the spread of the virus and help people who may unknowingly have it from transmitting it to others. The CDC recommends masks for adults and children ages 2 and up that:

  • Are non-medical and disposable
  • Are made with breathable or tightly-woven fabric
  • Have two or three layers
  • Include a filter pocket

The DOD does not authorize the use of novelty masks, masks with ventilation valves or face shields.

Be careful not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth when removing your face covering. Wash your hands as soon as you finish.

Be good to your body

Keep yourself healthy with the following activities:

  • Get moving. Reach out to a Military OneSource health and wellness coach to develop an exercise plan just for you with the equipment you have at home. You can make an appointment for a phone, online or video session by calling Military OneSource at 800-342-9647. OCONUS/International? Click here for calling options.
  • Keep your bedtime the same. It’s tempting to binge watch your favorite shows late into the night if you are not currently reporting to work or if you are working from home, but resist that urge. Sleep helps restore and relax your mind and body. A good sleep routine keeps you healthy.
  • Eat regular, nutritious meals with your family. Teach your children how to stay healthy by choosing healthy meals. Show them how to plan a meal, cook it, set the table and clean up after. Family meals are a great time to bond and get to know each other better, not to mention staying healthy.
  • Order medications online. Order your medications online to avoid contact with people who may have the virus. Here’s how to get home delivery for medications under TRICARE.

Be kind to your mind

Mental health is just as important as physical health. Here are a few ways to stay informed with updates on safety while keeping current events in perspective.

  • Engage your mind in your favorite activities. During the quarantine, make sure you are scheduling time for yourself to participate in the activities you enjoy the most. Whatever your thing is — reading a book, painting, playing an instrument or streaming your favorite music, dancing, writing, singing, etc. — do it, enjoy it and you’ll feel better for it.
  • Avoid information overload. Watching or reading too much negative news can increase anxiety. Instead, limit the time you take in negative news and use the extra time to fill yourself with something positive like writing down all you are grateful for or using these other tips for emotional wellness.
  • Practice self-care. Plug into tools to help you de-stress and take care of yourself. The Defense Health Agency recommends several: Breathe2Relax trains you on deep-breathing techniques and is among several you’ll find on the Military OneSource Recommended Wellness Apps page. The Military Meditation Coach podcast provides relaxation exercises and tips for well-being.
  • Help others and ask for help when you need it. Helping others will bring you happiness. Consider surprising a neighbor by doing their yard work or leave groceries on their porch (while keeping your social distance). Ask for help if you or your family need it; Military OneSource confidential, non-medical counselors are here for you. If you or a family member are having suicidal thoughts, call the Military Crisis line at 800-273-8255, press 1; text to 838255; or start a confidential chat.If you find yourself in a dangerous, abusive situation, contact command, the Family Advocacy Program or law enforcement. If you or someone else is in immediate danger, call 911. Except in select circumstances, you have the option of making either a restricted or unrestricted report of domestic abuse. Both options allow access to victim advocacy services, which include personal help and support.
  • Seek reliable information. Look for sites that provide factual and frequently updated information such as the CDC.

Stay up to date on all the latest information on COVID-19. For Department of Defense updates for the military community regarding the virus that causes COVID-19, view the following sites:

Children and Youth Counseling Services Help Develop Healthy Habits

Adult advises child in office

As a parent of a military youth, you can help your children learn how to develop healthy ways to deal with stress and life’s curveballs. Sometimes the stresses children face may require professional help. These situations could include a parent’s deployment, a family move or the general pressures of teen life. The Military and Family Life Counseling Program can help with its children’s mental health services.

Keeping your children mentally fit with youth mental health services

Your child’s health extends to youth mental health. If you see changes in your child’s behavior or your family is facing a transition, you may want to contact the program. Your children may benefit in several ways by seeing a child and youth behavioral military and family life counselor.

Your child is eligible to see one of the program’s licensed counselors as long as you or your spouse are an active-duty, National Guard or reserve service member or a designated Department of Defense expeditionary civilian. Surviving children also are eligible.

How the Military and Family Life Counseling Program can help

Program counselors are licensed with a master’s degree or higher and have passed criminal background checks. Licensed counselors can help with:

  • Changes at home, such as deployment, reunion, divorce and grief
  • Self-esteem issues
  • Communication and relationships at home and school
  • Life skills, such as problem solving and adjustment
  • Behavioral issues, including bullying and anger management

A move or parental deployment naturally can stress children or teens. Other reasons for stress and anxiety may not be so obvious. Some warning signs to look out for:

  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Headaches, backaches, stomachaches and muscle tension
  • Not eating or overeating
  • Irritability, anxiety, frequent crying
  • Withdrawing from friends or family
  • Smoking, drinking alcohol or using drugs
  • Falling grades in school

How to get help from the Military and Family Life Counseling Program

Contact Military OneSource 24/7.

You can get personalized help 365 days a year by telephone and online.

Overseas? See OCONUS calling options.

Prefer to live chat? Start now.

Stay ahead of potential or brewing problems. Counseling can help your child improve behavior, school performance or relationships with family members and others.

Call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 or Start a live chat to understand your confidential help options and to connect with a licensed counselor. OCONUS/International? View calling options.

You can also contact your installation Military and Family Support Center. Ask if there are child and youth behavioral counselors at any of the following locations near you: