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Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Resources Provide Help: You Are Not Alone

Image of Military personnel posing for a picture. Spc. Andrea Stevenson, a Baltimore, Maryland native and Army food service specialist assigned t o115th Quartermaster Field Feeding Company, 4th Division Sustainment Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, poses for a photo, March 11, 2022, at the Wolf Dinning Facility, Fort Carson, Colorado. On Feb. 28, Stevenson's best friend in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, called to say she was going to commit suicide. Due to her quick reaction, Stevenson was able to save the life of her close friend. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Joshua Zayas).

Life is full of ups and downs. But sometimes life events—financial strain, relationships, isolation, emotional or sexual abuse, stress, and misuse or abuse of alcohol or drugs—can lead to depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide for some. It’s important to remember that you are not alone. If you or a loved one need immediate help, you can call the Military & Veterans' Crisis Line by dialing 988 and selecting Option 1. Or start a chat online. The crisis line is free and available 24/7 to help you and connect you with the resources you need.

MentalHealth.gov defines mental health this way: “Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.”

However, life’s challenges can affect how we think, feel, and act. And our mental health may also be affected.

Mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, may interfere with your life and overall physical health. You can have symptoms that are mild and brief or more serious and persistent.

According to Dr. Krystyna Bienia, clinical psychologist and senior policy analyst at the Defense Health Agency, mental health disorders are treatable, and recovery is possible.

“TRICARE beneficiaries are urged to seek help as soon as they can when they notice something doesn’t feel right, or symptoms begin to present themselves,” Dr. Bienia said. “Early intervention is key, but help at any point is best. It’s okay to not be okay. But be sure to ask for help.”

What are some early signs of possible mental health problems that are interfering with your (or a loved one’s) daily routine?

  • Eating or sleeping too much or too little.
  • Pulling away from people and usual activities.
  • Having trouble concentrating.
  • Having low or no energy. 
  • Feeling numb or like nothing matters. 
  • Having unexplained aches and pains.
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless. 
  • Smoking or drinking more than usual. 

Do you think you or a family member could benefit from mental health services? TRICARE provides a number of resources. If you need help finding a provider, including a mental health provider, you can use the Find a Doctor tool. You can also reach out to your primary care provider or your TRICARE regional contractor.

You don’t need a referral or pre-authorization for any outpatient mental health (except for psychoanalysis) and substance use disorder care. This includes services like individual or family therapy. For example, if you have TRICARE Prime, you don’t need a referral to see a network provider for office-based outpatient mental health services. If you have TRICARE Select, you can see any TRICARE-authorized provider. But you’ll lower your out-of-pocket costs if you choose to see a network provider.

If you have TRICARE For Life, Medicare is the primary payer for your mental health services. You only need a referral or pre-authorization from TRICARE if your Medicare benefits are exhausted.

Are you an active duty service member? You should first seek nonemergency mental health services at your military hospital or clinic. You need to get a referral and pre-authorization for all civilian mental health services. You can go to the TRICARE website to learn more.

Keep in mind, you don’t need a referral or pre-authorization for emergency care. If you think you have a mental health emergency, call 911 or your local emergency number. Or go to the nearest emergency room. You need immediate help if you’re experiencing any of these signs:

  • Thinking about hurting or killing yourself.
  • Looking for ways to hurt yourself.
  • Talking about death, dying, or suicide.
  • Self-destructive behavior, such as drug abuse or risky use of weapons.

Non Emergency Mental Health Services

Depending on your needs and diagnosis, many treatment levels may be available to you. How do you get nonemergency mental health services? It depends on the level of care you need, your health plan, and your sponsor status. Some nonemergency mental health services TRICARE covers are:

Did you know telemental health services are also a part of your TRICARE benefit? With your computer, or phone, you can connect securely with your provider. Go to the TRICARE website to for more on these mental health resources.

Additional Services

The Military Health System has additional mental health resources that are available 24/7:

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DHA Publication
Nov 28, 2023

DHA Policy Memo: #23-014, Military Medical Treatment Facility Management of Self-Initiated Referral Process for Mental Health Evaluations of Service Members

.PDF | 176.30 KB
Provides information and guidance on military medical treatment facility procedures for a process that enables Service members to trigger a referral on their own for a mental health evaluation through a commanding officer or supervisor in a grade above E-5.
  • Identification #: 23-014
  • Type: DHA Policy Memo
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Suicide Care Prevention and Research Initiative at the Uniformed Services University Builds Interventions to Reduce Military Suicide

The Suicide Care, Prevention, and Research Initiative provides support for chaplains, spouses, military leadership, and other gatekeepers of service members. The program builds, scientifically tests, and implements suicide prevention programs by incorporating knowledge gained from service members who have died by suicide as well as those with suicidal thoughts and/or behaviors. (U.S. Army photo by Michele Wiencek)

While numerous programs work to develop strategies to lessen the national suicide rate, a standout in the military community is the Suicide Care, Prevention, and Research Initiative at the Uniformed Services University.

Last Updated: September 29, 2023
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