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Life is full of ups and downs. But sometimes life events — financial difficulties, relationships, isolation, emotional or sexual abuse, stress, and alcohol or drug abuse or abuse — can lead to depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts in some. It is important to remember that you are not alone. If you or a loved one needs immediate help, you can call the Military Crisis Line (or Veterans Crisis Line) at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and choose option 1. Send a Text to 838255. Or start a chat. The Crisis Line is free and available 24/7 to help you and connect you to the resources you need. 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 deal with stress, our relationships with others, and our choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence to adulthood.

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

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

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 recipients are urged to seek help as soon as they can when they notice something is wrong or symptoms begin to appear,” Dr. Bienia said. “Early intervention is key, but help at any time is best. It’s normal not to be well. But be sure to ask for help.

What are the early signs of possible mental health issues interfering with your daily routine (or that of a loved one)?

  • Eating or sleeping too much or too little.
  • Get away from usual people and activities.
  • Having trouble concentrating.
  • Having little or no energy.
  • Feeling numb or like nothing matters.
  • Having unexplained pain.
  • 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 care provider, you can use the Find a Doctor tool. You can also contact your primary care provider or regional TRICARE contractor.

You do not need a referral or prior authorization for outpatient mental health care (except for psychoanalysis) and substance use disorders. This includes services such as individual or family therapy. For example, if you have TRICARE Prime, you do not need a referral to see a network provider for in-office outpatient mental health services. If you have TRICARE Select, you can see any TRICARE authorized provider. But you will reduce your personal expenses if you choose to consult 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 have run out.

Are you an active duty member? You should first seek non-emergency mental health services at your military hospital or clinic. You must obtain a referral and prior authorization for all civil mental health services. You can go to the TRICARE website to find out more.

Remember that you do not need a referral or prior 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 experience any of these signs:

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

Non-emergency mental health services

Depending on your needs and your diagnosis, many levels of treatment can be offered to you. How do I get non-emergency mental health services? It depends on the level of care you need, your health plan, and your sponsor status. Some non-emergency mental health services covered by TRICARE are:

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

Additional services

The military health system has additional mental health resources available 24/7:

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