If you’re a service member struggling with mental health, you are not alone. A 2014 study found that nearly 1 in 4 active duty members showed signs of a mental health condition. Among other conditions, service members commonly struggle with the effects of depression, PTSD, or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
Mission success depends on good mental health as much as physical health. Asking for help takes courage, but it contributes to your safety and that of your fellow service members. Here are some tips and resources to get you started.
Military Mental Health Policy: Who Should I Tell?
Seeking mental health treatment as a service member can be daunting. You may wonder how disclosing a mental health problem can affect your career.
The armed forces do not require service members to disclose mental health problems to their chain of command. Care providers such as doctors and counselors follow privacy guidelines set by the DOD. In most cases, your mental health information stays private. However, if your provider finds that your condition may endanger you or others on the mission, they are obligated to alert the chain of command.
If you feel you need mental health support, ask for it. An untreated problem can worsen and affect your performance or compromise your safety. You are less likely to experience a negative career impact if you seek treatment for yourself rather than visibly worsening to the point where your commanding officer requires a mental health evaluation.
Mental Health Counseling for Service Members
Free, confidential assistance is available to military personnel and their families through the DOD-funded Military OneSource. Their call line is available toll-free 24/7 at 800-342-9647. This is a great first step in your search for mental health support—among other services, you can access support for transitioning veterans, peer-to-peer services, and non-medical counseling.
For Veterans and their loved ones, the VA offers mental health resources, information, treatment options, and more.
You can also talk to your primary care provider about your concerns and ask them to recommend or refer you to a counselor. On many bases, you can talk to a behavioral care specialist without leaving base.
Crisis Mental Health Resources
If you or someone you know is in crisis, seek help immediately. The resources below are confidential and available every day, 24/7.
Veteran Crisis Line (available to all veterans, service members, National Guard and Reserve, and friends/family members)
- Call: 1-800-273-8255 and press 1
- Chat: https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/get-help/chat
- Text: 838255
- Support for deaf and hard of hearing: 1-800-799-4889
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- Call: 1-800-273-8255
- Chat: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/
For more information, read our blog post on suicide prevention.