5 Tips to Start a Conversation About Mental Health Care > TRICARE Newsroom > TRICARE News

“How are you?” That’s the question almost everyone answers every day. Your usual response, like most people, is probably “Okay, thank you.” how are you? “

But if you think about it, is it okay? Maybe you haven’t been yourself for a while. You are feeling sad, stressed, lonely, or simply not feeling the way you want to feel. I want to feel better, but I don’t know where to start.

“You may not know what you need or where to start, but start by asking questions,” says Christina Bienia, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and senior policy analyst at the Defense and Health Agency. “TRICARE covers a wide range of mental health and support services to help you.”

Bienia added that if you or a loved one is considering suicide, don’t wait for help. Anyone in the United States can call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Dial 988 and select option 1 to connect to the Military Crisis Line.. The Crisis Line is free and available 24/7 to help you get through the crisis and connect you to mental health resources.

What are the first steps to ask for help? Soldiers can contact their commanding officer. And everyone — military personnel, retirees, family members — has a first point of contact: a healthcare provider. The National Institute of Mental Health says to contact your primary care manager (PCM). PCMs are trained to talk to you about your concerns and tie them into a plan to get you back on track. Make an appointment to start a conversation.

Bienia offers tips for talking to your PCM about mental health.

Tip #1: Write down your thoughts and feelings

Sometimes it’s hard to explain what’s going on inside of you. Especially if it’s not in your mood. Before the appointment, write down the feelings you have, when they started, and how they affect your daily life. Writing down what you’re going through can help you feel better prepared to meet your PCM.

Tip #2: Just Start Talking

Remember, when you see PCM, you don’t have to have the “right word”. Just start talking. Let him tell the PCM how you are feeling and what you are thinking. PCM helps you piece together what you say and decide what next steps are right for you.

Tip #3: Ask Questions

A provider is a partner who creates a plan to begin addressing your concerns. Ask whatever questions come to mind based on the conversation. The questions you ask guide your plan. For example, the PCM may suggest that you consult a mental health provider such as a certified social worker, clinical psychologist, or psychiatrist who can work with you individually or in groups. Your PCM may also suggest medications. In any case, let’s consider what options are available and the benefits and risks of each.

Tip #4: Be Open to Other Resources

If your health care provider believes you do not need to see a mental health care provider, they may suggest that you seek help through nonclinical resources. Resources can be found through service activities and communities, pastors, family life counselors, support groups, and Military OneSource.

Tip #5: Welcome change as it unfolds

Be open to what lies ahead in the process. It may not be easy, but keep believing that you can get where you want to go.

“Mental health issues can lead to other health conditions, so it’s important to reach out to your health care provider,” says Bienia. “Your her PCM can help with these aspects of your health and well-being.”

If you need help finding a healthcare provider, you can use Find a Physician. You can also contact your local TRICARE contractor for assistance.

The next time someone asks you how you’re doing, answer honestly. Use these tips to start a conversation with your provider. You can also explore the mental health services covered by TRICARE. Remember, you are not alone. You don’t have to be in danger to ask for help.

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