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.

Wounded Warrior Programs

two disabled veterans talking

The military provides specialized wounded warrior programs designed to help severely ill and injured service members transition back to duty or civilian life. Each service branch has its own program. While the programs do not focus on medical issues, they do help service members and their medical teams develop a comprehensive recovery plan that addresses specific rehabilitation and recovery goals.

Wounded warrior program eligibility

Wounded warrior programs are not solely exclusive to service members with combat injuries. They also assist:

  • Service members who are battling serious illnesses
  • Service members who have been injured in accidents and require long term care

Types of support wounded warrior programs provide

Wounded warrior programs provide non-medical support that is tailored to fit the service member’s needs. This support spans from something as simple as helping service members understand their benefits to assisting them with their specialized transportation needs. The program provides services that address:

  • Pay and personnel issues
  • Invitational travel orders
  • Lodging and housing adaptations
  • Child and youth care arrangements
  • Transportation needs
  • Legal and guardianship issues
  • Education and training benefits
  • Respite care
  • Traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress support services

How to enroll in the wounded warrior program

Enrollment into the wounded warrior program varies per branch. Some service branches allow wounded warriors to self-refer into the program. Other service branches require that a medical officer make a program enrollment request on behalf of the service member. Here is a contact list for the various wounded warrior programs:

  • Army: In order to be considered eligible for entry into the Warrior Care and Transition Program, soldiers must meet the entry criteria for their component. For more information and assistance, contact the Army Wounded Warrior Call Center at 877-393-9058, DSN 312-221-9113.
  • Marine Corps: The parent command, medical officer, medical case manager or Wounded Warrior Regiment detachment officer-in-charge must initiate the request on behalf of the service member. For more information on the referral process, contact the Wounded Warrior Regiment call center at 877-487-6299.
  • Navy Wounded Warrior: Sailors and Coast Guardsmen may self-refer to the program or be referred by a family member, their command leadership, or their medical team. For questions on enrollment eligibility, contact the Navy Wounded Warrior call center at 855-NAVY-WWP or 855-628-9997, or use the contact links provided on the website.
  • Air Force: Anyone can refer an airman into the Air Force Wounded Warrior program. Contact the AFW2 program office at 800-581-9437 or use the direct email links provided on the website.
  • Special Operations Command Warrior Care Program: USSOCOM WCP was established in 2005 to provide support to special operations forces wounded, ill, or injured service members and their families after life changing events to help them navigate through recovery, rehabilitation, and reintegration. For more information, call 877-672-3039 or 813-826-8888.

For additional information and resources including free specialty consultation services, visit the Military OneSource Wounded Warrior webpage. You can also contact a Military OneSource consultant 24/7/365, by calling 800-342-9647, using OCONUS dialing options, or scheduling a live chat.

Military and Family Life Counseling Program: What’s New, What’s Stayed the Same

Husband and wife looking at each other back to back

Current as of May 4, 2020


The Military and Family Life Counseling Program can help you stay strong through life’s challenges, including those due to the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. We will offer telephonic and video sessions in areas where face-to-face support is restricted.

What is the Military and Family Life Counseling Program?

Military families face unique challenges, such as deployments and moving. The Military and Family Life Counseling Program offers free, short-term, non-medical counseling to service members, Department of Defense expeditionary civilians, their families and survivors.

Non-medical counselors are available through one-on-one, couple or group sessions to help with:

  • Managing stress and changes at home due to COVID-19
  • Adjusting to deployment
  • Preparing to move or adjusting after a move
  • Strengthening relationships
  • Managing problems at work
  • Grieving the death of a loved one or colleague

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.

What’s new?

The Military and Family Life Counseling Program now offers telephonic and video non-medical counseling. This is available in areas where face-to-face support may be restricted due to COVID-19. Contact Military OneSource for contact information and a warm hand-off to your closest military and family life counselor for telephonic or video non-medical counseling.

What’s the same?

The Military and Family Life Counseling Program is here to support you with free non-medical counseling by licensed master’s- or doctorate-level counselors. Sessions are confidential with the exception of child abuse or neglect, domestic abuse, harm to self or others, and illegal activity.

Counselors who specialize in child and youth behavioral issues are available to support children and teens with non-medical counseling.

Military OneSource also offers non-medical counseling by phone, live chat, video, or face-to-face where permitted. Children and teenagers may meet with a Military OneSource non-medical counselor by phone or video, as well as face-to-face where permitted.

How to get help

Contact your installation’s Military and Family Support Center to set up non-medical counseling through the Military and Family Life Counseling Program.

You can reach a child and youth behavioral military and family life counselor through:

  • A child development center
  • Your installation’s youth and teen center
  • Your child’s public school on or off the installation
  • A youth summer camp sponsored by your military service
  • Your commander or unit training point of contact

To connect with your closest military and family life counselor, call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 for contact information and a warm hand-off. View calling options if you are outside the continental United States.

For Department of Defense updates for the military community regarding the virus that causes COVID-19:

Eligibility for Confidential, Non-medical Support Services

Soldiers run together

Military OneSource helps service members and their families be the best guardians of their country, team and family by helping them find information, manage challenges and connect with the military community. A virtual extension of installation services, Military OneSource provides a wide range of confidential support services, including:

Eligibility may vary and is explained in the following information.

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.

Eligibility for all Military OneSource support services

The following groups are eligible for all Military OneSource services listed above:

  • Active duty: All active-duty service members of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Space Force
  • Active-duty immediate family members (includes spouses, children and anyone who has legal responsibility for the service member’s children during separation for the child’s benefit).
  • National Guard and reserve service members (regardless of their activation status) and their immediate families (includes spouses, children and anyone who has legal responsibility for the service member’s children during separation for the child’s benefit).
  • Coast Guard members who are activated as part of the Department of the Navy under Title 10 authority, as well as their family members.
  • Designated Department of Defense expeditionary civilians and their families (includes spouses, children and anyone who has legal responsibility for the service member’s children during separation for the child’s benefit).
  • Survivors (surviving spouses who have not remarried and children) of active duty, National Guard and reserve service members (regardless of activation status or cause of service member’s death).
  • Medically discharged service members (and their immediate family members) if they are being serviced under one of the services’ wounded warrior or seriously ill and injured programs.
  • Retired service members until 365 days past end of tour of service, retirement date or discharge date, including service members on the Temporary Disability Retirement List. Coast Guard veterans and their immediate family are eligible from their separation date until 365 days past end of tour of service.
  • Discharged service members (if discharged honorably) (and their immediate family members) until 365 days past end of tour of service, retirement date or discharge date. Coast Guard veterans (if discharged honorably) and their immediate family are eligible from their separation date until 365 days past end of tour of service.
  • Military academy cadets.

Eligibility for limited Military OneSource support services

The following groups are eligible for Military OneSource online services and webinars, and call center consultation and services, but cannot access all Military OneSource services:

  • Parents and extended family members of active-duty, National Guard and reserve service members when needing assistance with issues that are directly related to the service member or on behalf of the service member.
  • Reserve Officers’ Training Corps students.
  • Delayed-entry recruits and future recruits (and their parents and immediate family members) regarding support directly related to or on behalf of the future recruit.
  • Non-military/non-spouse (for example, partner or former spouse) who is the parent of an eligible child is eligible if the service member is being serviced under an injured soldier program as well as his or her immediate family, including anyone who has legal responsibility for a service member’s children during separation. Eligibility extends to language translation services for documents and for telephone translation.

Speak with a Military OneSource consultant directly at 800-342-9647 for more information regarding eligibility requirements. OCONUS/International? View calling options.

Military OneSource Virtual Resources for Well-Being

Military female on smart phone using Mood Hacker application

Current as of Sept. 29, 2020


Social distancing is vital to stemming the spread of coronavirus disease 2019. But being isolated from others can increase stress and anxiety levels.

It’s important to take care of all aspects of your health. This includes your emotional well-being. Military OneSource offers telehealth counseling and virtual support. This allows you to get the help you need while staying safe.

Telehealth services for mental health and well-being

Military OneSource has a team of counselors, consultants and coaches to help you tackle challenges. Connect with them at your convenience online, by phone or by chat. These services are free to service members and their immediate family.

Non-medical counseling

Non-medical counselors offer confidential sessions by secure video, chat or in person. Counselors are licensed and master’s level or higher. Counselors can help with everyday stressors and personal challenges due to COVID-19. Service members and family members who may benefit from non-medical counseling include:

  • Anyone who might be struggling with loneliness, feelings of isolation, stress and anxiety.
  • Couples who find themselves arguing more or not communicating well because of the strain of isolating at home.
  • Parents who are dealing with difficult behaviors stemming from the pandemic.
  • Children and youth ages 6-17, who might benefit from healthy coping strategies.

Building Healthy Relationships specialty consultations

This specialty consultation offers a number of tracks that are customized to different relationships. Your consultant will help you identify the track – or tracks – that are right for you. They are:

  • Building Healthy Relationships
  • Healthy Parent-Child Connections
  • Communication Refreshers
  • Staying Connected While Away
  • Blended Family
  • MilSpouse Toolkit
  • Reconnecting After Deployment

New MilParent specialty consultations

Welcoming a new baby and parenting a young child can be both exciting and exhausting. This is true even in the best of times. Military OneSource’s New MilParent specialty consultation is here for you.

This program offers confidential support for military parents with children up to age 5. It’s also available to expectant parents. A New MilParent specialty consultant can help with your parenting questions. The consultant will also connect you with resources, including those created for military parents. Sessions are available through video or phone at a time that works for you.

Health and wellness coaching

A Military OneSource health and wellness coach can help in a number of ways. Your coach can help you manage stress, deal with life changes or get back on track to healthy eating and physical fitness.

Your coach will help you set goals and create a plan to meet them. Health and wellness coaching is available for teenagers and adults.

Resilience tools and apps

Military OneSource offers a variety of resilience tools and well-being apps. Tap into these to help manage stress, strengthen your relationships and meet your goals.

Resilience tools

Military OneSource resilience tools include:

  • CoachHub, which connects you with experts who can help you set and meet goals.
  • MoodHacker, which lets you track, understand and improve how you’re feeling.
  • Love Every Day, which connects you with your partner through text-message prompts.

Recommended wellness apps

The Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs and other partners developed apps for service members. You’ll find recommended apps that train you in deep-breathing techniques, positive thinking, problem-solving skills and more.

Support with mental health care

The Department of Defense inTransition program provides specialized coaching for service members, veterans and retirees who need access to mental health care during a transition, such as relocating to another assignment, returning from deployment or preparing to leave military service.

Military OneSource can help you stay healthy in body and mind. Tap into telehealth counseling and virtual support during the pandemic and beyond.

To stay up to date on all the latest information on COVID-19, view the following sites:

It’s important to take care of all aspects of your health. This includes your emotional well-being. Military OneSource offers telehealth counseling and virtual support. This allows you to get the help you need while staying safe.

7 Counseling Options for Service Members and Their Families

Couple speaks to a counselor

The Department of Defense provides a variety of counseling options to all active-duty, National Guard and reserve service members, survivors, designated Department of Defense expeditionary civilians and their families. Learn about the different types of military counseling services that are available so you can choose the option that best meets your needs.

Military counseling services

  1. Installation’s chaplain — In addition to offering spiritual guidance, chaplains in military units and commands are trained counselors who are attuned to military life. Many military members find a level of comfort and camaraderie in talking with a chaplain who offers confidential assistance and referral services for concerns that require additional help.
  2. Combat stress control teams — Combat stress control teams are available as field resource support for service members during deployments. These teams of mental health professionals are embedded with units and offer unlimited access to help service members address concerns that arise in the field.
  3. Non-medical counseling resources — Non-medical counseling programs provide confidential, short-term counseling with service providers that possess advanced degrees in a mental health field and are licensed to practice independently. These services are designed to address a variety of issues, including marital stress, adjustment issues, improving relationships at home and work, stress management, parenting, and grief and loss issues. The two primary resources for non-medical counseling services are Military OneSource and the Military and Family Life Counseling Program. Non-medical counseling services are available face-to-face, by telephone, online and video.
  4. The Family Advocacy Program — The Family Advocacy Program is a supportive resource for service members and their families. The program provides support and resources to help families develop and sustain healthy, strong relationships. They can provide individual, couples or family counseling, as well as support groups and other resources. The Family Advocacy Program also assesses, refers and provides counseling for families experiencing domestic violence or child abuse and will also refer at-risk individuals for other immediate professional, medical mental health treatment.
  5. TRICARE or your nearest military treatment facility — Therapy services may also be available through TRICARE. Your primary care manager can refer you to appropriate counseling through a military treatment facility or a network provider in your area. If you are using TRICARE, make sure you understand what services will be covered and what co-pays you may be responsible for.
  6. United States Department of Veterans Affairs counseling at Vet Centers — The VA provides counseling services to assess and treat mental health issues. Veterans Centers have highly trained staff specializing in suicide prevention and offer free readjustment counseling to combat veterans and their families, including those still on active duty.
  7. Outside military support channels — Some people may be more comfortable working with counselors outside of the military. If you choose a civilian provider for professional assistance, make sure you understand the costs before you begin a treatment program. Community mental health services often use a sliding scale for fees based on the client’s ability to pay or may require copays associated with individual insurance.

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.

Understanding your rights to privacy

Many service members will avoid seeking the help they need for fear of stigma and negative implications for their career. Don’t be afraid that counseling will negatively impact your career or the career of your spouse. By and large, counseling falls under protected information and is kept confidential. There are certain limits to privacy, which you should review with your counselor.

For service members or their families seeking counseling through military support channels, those services are confidential and family members may use counseling services without notice or consent of the service member. The only exceptions to confidentiality are for mandatory state, federal and military reporting requirements (for example, domestic violence, child abuse and duty-to-warn situations). Even then, only those who need to be notified will be informed. All counselors, military or civilian, are ethically and legally bound to safeguard client confidentiality within the confines of safety and security-threat disclosure. Call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 to understand your confidential help options.

What You Need to Know About Confidential, Non-medical Online Counseling

Service member holds out hand

Can’t make it to a traditional, face-to-face counseling session? No worries. Military OneSource offers free, confidential non-medical online counseling. No matter where you’re stationed, you have access to the support you need. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, experts are ready to help you tackle challenges of military and family life.

Here is what you need to know about confidential, non-medical online counseling.

How does free non-medical online counseling work?

  • Online medical counseling involves a real-time conversation between you and the counselor using instant messaging.
  • The length of each online session varies based on the discussion. Sessions are available between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.
  • Counselors are professionals with a master’s or doctoral degree (in psychology, counseling, social work or marriage and family counseling) and a license to practice independently in the state/territory where services are received.
  • You are entitled to 12 sessions per issue. If you need more support after that, a Military OneSource consultant can help you access other resources, including community services, installation services or TRICARE, if appropriate.
  • You can arrange your online session by calling Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 or by logging in to your Military OneSource account. OCONUS/International? View calling options.
  • Military OneSource uses state-of-the-art technology to securely transfer information over the internet. However, you’re responsible for keeping your location private and your email and passwords secure. The confidentiality of your online conversations or the privacy of your location can’t be guaranteed.
  • The sessions are completely confidential. The only exceptions to confidentiality are legal and military requirements to report child abuse, spouse abuse, elder abuse, threats of harm to self or others, and any present or future illegal activity.
  • Family members can use confidential, online non-medical counseling without the service member knowing. They have the option of receiving 12 sessions as well.
  • See Understanding Non-medical Counseling for a list of topics addressed in online sessions.
  • Online sessions are available free of charge to active-duty, National Guard and reserve members of any activation status, their immediate family members and survivors. See full eligibility guidelines.
  • Online non-medical counseling is now available for children and teenagers ages 6-17.

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.

The Military OneSource non-medical online counseling service allows you to work with a counselor from the comfort of your home or anywhere in the world. A perfect option for service members and their families stationed overseas and in remote locations, the online sessions permit you to develop life skills and address challenges on your schedule and with flexibility.

Call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 to schedule your online counseling session. OneSource account. OCONUS/International? View calling options.

Non-Medical Counseling for Youth Now Available by Video

Teenager using computer

Current as of March 20, 2020


School closures and the general uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus disease 2019 have affected families everywhere. Children and teenagers who feel isolated from friends and activities may experience a particularly hard time.

Children show stress in different ways. Your child may act out, be sad or fearful, or show signs of low self-esteem. To help your child cope with changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Military OneSource will offer video non-medical counseling sessions for children and teenagers.

What is non-medical counseling?

  • Non-medical counseling is confidential, short-term, solution-focused counseling provided by counselors with a master’s degree or higher.
  • Self-esteem issues
  • Communication and relationships
  • Problem-solving and adjustment
  • Behavioral issues, such as bullying and anger management
  • Changes at home, such as deployment, reunion, divorce and grief

Children and youth services

Children and youth ages 6-17 of active-duty, National Guard or reserve service members, and recently retired or separated service members are eligible for confidential video non-medical counseling through Military OneSource.

A parent must attend each video session for children age 12 and younger, but only be available at the start of each video session for youth ages 13 to 17 to give parental consent.

Conversations in these sessions stay between your child and the counselor. The only exceptions are cases of domestic violence, abuse, and suicidal or homicidal threats. If your child is in immediate crisis, call the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255, and press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255.

Arranging non-medical counseling for your child

Call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 to learn whether non-medical counseling is right for your child. View for calling options if you are outside the continental United States. If a consultant determines the service is appropriate, you will be authorized for up to 12 counseling sessions and connected with a non-medical counselor who best suits your child’s needs.

Our understanding of COVID-19 is changing rapidly. Stay up to date by checking Military OneSource’s Coronavirus Information for Our Military Community.

Understanding Confidential Non-medical Counseling Services

Two service members talking in an office

You never have to be without support. Military OneSource and Military and Family Life Counseling provide free, short-term, confidential non-medical counseling services for a wide range of issues from marital conflicts and stress management to coping with grief and deployment adjustments.

Confidential non-medical counseling is effective for finding answers to common emotional and interpersonal difficulties.

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.

This overview explains the kinds of issues addressed by confidential non-medical counseling and how you can access it.

Eligibility for Non-medical Counseling

Confidential non-medical counseling services are free and available to the following groups through Military OneSource and your installation’s Military and Family Support Center:

  • Active-duty service members and their immediate family members
  • National Guard and reserve service members (regardless of activation status) and their immediate family members
  • Designated Department of Defense expeditionary civilians and their immediate family members
  • Survivors

Review the full eligibility guidelines.

Children and Youth Services

Children are eligible to receive confidential non-medical counseling services under the following circumstances:

  • Children ages 12 and younger may attend face-to-face sessions through Military OneSource with a parent or guardian, but not on their own.
  • Youth, ages 13 through 17, are eligible for individual, face-to-face counseling through Military OneSource, but a parent must attend the first session.
  • Children younger than age 18 are eligible for counseling with a child and youth behavioral military and family life counselor with parental consent.
  • All military and family life counseling with children occurs within line of sight of another adult.

Confidentiality

The non-medical counseling services through Military OneSource and the Military and Family Life Counseling Program are confidential. The Military and Family Life Counseling Program is also anonymous. This means:

  • A family member can receive counseling without the service member’s knowledge.
  • A service member can receive counseling without a family member’s knowledge.

Privacy protections ensure your personal information will not be:

  • Provided to the military or chain of command
  • Shared with family or friends
  • Released to other agencies

Exceptions to privacy include:

  • Duty to warn
  • Suspected family maltreatment (domestic violence, child or elder abuse or neglect)
  • Harm to self or others
  • Illegal activity

Issues addressed in non-medical counseling services

Confidential non-medical counseling addresses issues such as:

  • Adjustments (including deployments)
  • Marital problems
  • Parenting skills
  • Stress management
  • Decision-making
  • Communication
  • Grief and loss

Non-medical counseling services don’t address certain issues. If you need help with any of the following issues, contact the Military Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255 and Press 1).:

Non-medical counseling isn’t suitable for individuals:

  • Prescribed psychoactive medication
  • Receiving therapy with another practitioner
  • Involved in Family Advocacy Program cases
  • Undergoing fitness-for-duty evaluations
  • Undergoing court-ordered counseling

Accessing free counseling services

Face-to-face confidential non-medical counseling may occur in an office setting with a counselor located in the local community or with military and family life counselors on an installation. Military OneSource offers counseling sessions in three other formats:

Hear an example of a call center experience

Service members and their families can request counseling services at any time of the day or night, any day of the year, from anywhere in the world by calling Military OneSource at 800-342-9647. A consultant will assess your needs and give you a referral. You can also access Military OneSource counseling services online.

To speak with a military and family life counselor, contact one of the following:

Whether it’s getting to the next level or juggling responsibilities, we all need help sometimes. Tap into your military network to get the support you need. Confidential non-medical counseling is available to help you manage the stressors of military and family life anytime, anywhere.

How to Cope With a Traumatic Event

Service member paints to help with PTSD

A violent act, catastrophic accident, or sudden loss can leave you feeling anxious and fearful, which are normal reactions. But if anxiety and fears are taking over your or a loved one’s life, you may want to consider professional help. Military OneSource offers confidential, non-medical counseling – face to face, online, by phone or video – along with the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-TALK (8255), and resources for post-traumatic stress disorder. All are available for free.

Reminders and events can trigger post-traumatic stress disorder, bringing back painful memories and emotions for months or even years after the trauma. Learn about common reactions to trauma, some coping mechanisms and ways to help others, along with resources for more information and help.

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.

Common feelings and reactions following a trauma

Traumatic events may cause you or someone you love to experience a range of feelings and reactions, such as:

  • Sadness
  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Disruption of sleep patterns
  • Eating problems increase or decrease

Although these feelings and reactions are normal, you can help yourself or your loved one manage and cope with them so they don’t become overpowering.

Possible coping mechanisms

Coping strategies like these may help you or your loved one recover from anxiety, depression or other post-trauma feelings and reactions that may be impacting your life. Strategies may include the following:

  • Spend time talking and sharing your feelings with people you love. Doing so can put things in perspective, which may make your day-to-day life more manageable. It can also help you focus on positive relationships instead of the traumatic event.
  • Take care of yourself. If you feel well physically, you might manage your feelings and reactions better. Eat healthy foods, exercise moderately, get enough sleep, and take any medications prescribed for you. Avoid using drugs or alcohol to cope – this may lead to you feeling worse over time.
  • Try to stick to your typical, day-to-day routine. It can be a healthy distraction from feelings after a traumatic event. Going back to your home and work responsibilities can renew a sense of purpose and lessen feelings of isolation.
  • Practice stress-relieving techniques. Exercise, journaling, meditation, listening to music and deep breathing techniques are just a few activities that can help relieve stress by focusing your mind on something other than the traumatic event. Try these to find what works best for you.
  • Avoid media coverage of the event for a while. Too many reminders or fixating on the event may heighten your anxiety. If it’s unavoidable, try to watch any news coverage with a friend or supporter and discuss the event or your feelings if you feel comfortable.
  • Don’t be afraid to seek support from friends, family and professionals. Many people also find comfort in their religious beliefs and faith communities during difficult times.

Extending help in times of crisis

If a friend or relative is deeply affected by a trauma, there are ways you can help. People who go through a traumatic event may not get a chance to talk about their feelings and experiences. They might think they don’t need to share their feelings, or they think something’s wrong with them because they’re having trouble coping. Here’s how you can help:

  • Reassure him or her the emotions they’re feeling are a normal reaction to a traumatic event. Remind them fear, anger, hopelessness and shock are common feelings others – possibly even you – have had.
  • Share your feelings. If you experienced a similar event, your insight could be comforting.
  • Invite your co-worker, friend or relative to a ceremony, vigil, religious service or fundraising event. Taking part in efforts to remember or help the victims of a tragedy and their families can bring comfort and a sense of community. Sometimes just being with other people who experienced trauma can help with emotional isolation.
  • Include him or her in your family events and normal daily routines. This can help relieve feelings of isolation.

Each person reacts differently to trauma, so be patient when offering help, and expect a range of emotions and reactions. Check in periodically and let him or her know you’re available for support throughout the coping process.

Resources and support

No one has to struggle alone; in fact, asking for help is a sign of strength. Friends and family can provide a lot of support, but you may also consider seeking help from a counselor or professional therapist.

Free, confidential, non-medical counseling is available 24/7 from Military OneSource, whose consultants can refer service members and their families to services in their local community. Non-medical counseling services are also available face to face, online, by phone or video by calling 800-342-9647. OCONUS/International? Click here for calling options. Your installation’s Family Support Center can also provide confidential, non-medical counseling with Military and Family Life Counselors. Find out how Children and Youth Behavioral Military and Family Life Counselors can help your child cope.

Coping with a traumatic event can be complicated and can take time for you and those you love. You’re not alone. Use your available resources to help you manage and cope with your feelings.