Mental well-being is as important as physical well-being

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- There is a lot in the news lately about suicide prevention, traumatic brain injury, mild-traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder that can affect military families.

TBI and MTBI can occur when the head is struck or shaken violently in a fall or an explosion. PTSD can occur when someone experiences a life-threatening or horrific situation.

A person may not experience any specific change in life circumstances but could experience depression, anxiety, phobias or the like. Sadness, loneliness, feelings of being overwhelmed or out-of-control, sleeping too much or too little, feeling angry or irritable or just numb, or any change in personality are a few symptoms that should signal a person to seek help no matter what may have led up to these feelings.

Just like a high fever and trouble breathing may be symptoms that make a person seek medical care, behavioral health symptoms, which can be more subtle, are important signals that it's time to get help. Mental-well being is just as important as physical well-being.

Many programs are being developed within the military health system for psychological health issues that include prevention, protection, diagnosis, treatment and recovery. It is important to recognize and treat people with "mental" injuries keeping them and their families from experiencing the best mental or psychological health possible.

There are resources available for people seeking professional help at the first signs of mental distress, which is very important. People can seek help through the following resources: Military OneSource offers counseling and other assistance 24/7 through toll-free numbers and resources found at www.militaryonesource.com; Afterdeployment.com at www.afterdeployment.com offers confidential education on many issues such as dealing with stress, conflicts at work, reconnecting with family and friends, anger, substance abuse, and children and deployment; and people can receive an anonymous behavioral self-assessment at www.militarymentalhealth.org/chooselang.asp.

Tricare can help people in need of mental health care. Non-active duty Tricare Prime beneficiaries may go to eight outpatient behavioral health care visits without a referral. Outpatient psychotherapy is limited to the length of the appointment and frequency. Inpatient admissions for patients 19 years and older are limited to 30 days in a fiscal year or admission; patients 18 years and younger are limited to 45 days in a fiscal year or admission; residential treatment for patients 18 years and younger may be up to 150 days but is only available in the United States; and people can stay in substance abuse programs for up to 21 days with an additional seven days for detoxification if needed. The lifetime benefit for the substance abuse programs is limited to three inpatient treatment programs.

People do not need to become a statistic on the nightly news. Primary health care providers, mental health care providers and Tricare are here to help people receive the care they needed for their mental-well being.

Editor's Note: September is Health Benefits Awareness Month.