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How to Find Help: Accessing Behavioral Healthcare for Soldiers

Ask the Flight Surgeon / By CPT Joseph R. Adams, DO and MAJ Ryan Green, PhD: Q: I’m a member of the National Guard and need help working through some personal problems. Who can I talk to?

FS: This is an excellent question, as accessing healthcare resources can be challenging for National Guard Soldiers. While access to care in a crisis is always available through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (see contact information below), seeking care for a non-crisis related concern may seem daunting. Not all life events are easy to cope with and managing things on your own can be especially difficult. Realizing this early on and seeking assistance is key to preventing your concerns from snowballing.

Discusses a training scenario as part of a primary care behavioral health seminar. Medical care providers throughout United States Division-North, Iraq, are taking part in these seminars to improve mental health screening for Soldiers. / Photo Credit: Pvt. Zachary Zuber, army.mil

Army Behavioral Health providers evaluate and treat Soldiers with many different needs including but not limited to marital issues, stress, trouble sleeping, substance use concerns, anger management difficulties, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They are here to help get you feeling better and back in the fight. If you do not know who your unit Behavioral Health Officer is (usually a psychologist or social worker) and do not have access to a Military Treatment Facility, there are many people in your unit who can point you in the right direction including your chain of command. Of particular note is your unit Chaplain who can be an incredible resource to talk to as well as to assist you in seeking care.

The healthcare of Army Aircrew must involve an aeromedically-trained provider. That doesn’t mean you can’t be seen by providers who are not aeromedically-trained. Any healthcare specialist can work in coordination with an aeromedically-trained provider to make sure you receive the appropriate care.

Q: But if I seek help won’t they ground me?
FS: This is a common concern that may keep Aircrew from seeking help. However, the primary goal is to keep you flying as safely as possible. While it may be necessary to issue a temporary down-slip during the course of your evaluation and treatment, in the long run you will avoid more serious problems. When addressed early on, many common reasons for which Aircrew seek help are listed as “for information only” in the flight physical and do not require a waiver. When medications are necessary, a 4-month down-slip will be required to ensure correct dosing and to monitor for medication tolerance. Problems arise when Aircrew wait too long to seek help; early intervention is highly encouraged. Often a delay in reaching out for assistance can compound the problem resulting in a longer duration of grounding.

Q: How do I know if I have a problem?
FS: If you feel like things are becoming difficult to manage on your own, feel out of control, or feel like you are in a downward spiral you should seek help. You can also take a self-check quiz at https://www.vetselfcheck.org/welcome.cfm to help determine if behavioral health concerns may be affecting you. Here are some general signs and symptoms to look out for:

Depression

  • Feeling or being told that you seem down or depressed
  • Having less interest in doing things that you used to enjoy
  • Unintentional weight loss or gain n Eating too much or too little
  • Sleeping too much or too little n Lack of energy
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • A sense of hopelessness
  • Thoughts of suicide (If you are having thoughts of suicide call the crisis line (see ontact info below).

Anxiety

  • Feeling worried, restless, or on-edge
  • Easy fatigability
  •  Having trouble concentrating
  •  Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Difficulty sleeping

Sleep Disorder

  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  •  Being told that you stop breathing intermittently during sleep
  •  Feeling fatigued during the day
  •  Falling asleep unintentionally during the day

Substance Abuse

  • Often taking larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended
  • Feeling like you need to cut back
  • Spending an unusual amount of effort in obtaining, using, or recovering from use 
  • Cravings
  • Failures to fulfill obligations at home, school, or work resulting from use
  • Continuing to use despite recurrent social or interpersonal problems
  • Giving up important activities due to use
  • Recurrent use in dangerous situations
  • Experiencing tolerance to or withdrawal symptoms

Anger Management

  • Failure to control aggressive impulses leading to verbal or physical outbursts
  • Aggressive behavior that is out of proportion to the provocation
  • The behavior causes you distress or results in difficulty in social situations Any combination of the above symptoms that result in a negative impact in your work or personal life should be evaluated. Whatever component you are in, we encourage you to seek help for your concerns. You are not alone and help is available.

Contacts

  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Crisis Line (available 24/7 365 days a year) Dial 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 to talk to someone.
  • Send a text message to 838255 to connect with a VA responder.
  • Start a confidential online chat session at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat
  • Take a self-check quiz at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Quiz
  • In Europe: Call 00800 1273 8255 or DSN 118
  • In Korea: Call 0808 555 118 or DSN 118
  • In Afghanistan: Call 00 1 800 273 8255 or DSN 111

Questions?

If you have a question you would like addressed, email it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; we’ll try to address it in the future. See your unit flight surgeon for your personal health issues. The views and opinions offered are those of the author and researchers and should not be construed as an official Department of the Army position unless otherwise stated

CPT (Dr.) Joseph R. Adams is a flight surgeon and MAJ Ryan Green the chief of Human Factors and Aeromedical Psychology at the United States Army School of Aviation Medicine (USASAM), Fort Rucker, AL.

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