As military family members, it is important to remember that although most of us do not deploy or face combat situations, we do face tremendous amounts of stress. Deployments mean long separations from our spouses combined with worries about their safety and additional stress from carrying two peoples’ share of family and household responsibilities. That can leave many of us feeling lonely, depressed, anxious, or overwhelmed. The stresses of reintegration and the strain of dealing with a spouse’s PTSD or depression also take a toll on many military spouses.
Many of us feel obligated to seem strong or tough, either for the sake of our children and/or our spouses or for fear of the opinions of our peers. We may sometimes feel that admitting we are overwhelmed or need someone to talk to means that we are weak, whiny, or do not support our spouses. The military has been trying to get the message across to service members and veterans for years now, and spouses need to hear it too- It is okay to admit you need help. It is okay to talk about it.
You have to take care of yourself if you want to do anyone else any good, and that means mentally and emotionally as well as physically. Fortunately, help is readily available and easy to access.
The gateway to most mental health and wellness resources for military families, especially dependents, is Military OneSource. OneSource is a Department of Defense program which provides military families with information and resources for many things, including mental health, finances, relationships, education, careers, deployment and reintegration, and recreation. If you think you might benefit from having a counselor to talk to about your situation or your feelings, you can visit www.militaryonesource.com or call 1-800-342-9647. There, you can speak with a consultant either online or over the phone twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, even on holidays.
Through OneSource, each family member (including the servicemember) gets twelve counseling sessions per issue free of charge. That means that if you are having a difficult time during this deployment and you use all twelve sessions, you can get twelve more sessions if you need them later after the death of a loved one or to help deal with reintegration. If you need more than twelve sessions, your counselor can get your counseling costs transferred from Military OneSource to TriCare with no interruption in your treatment and minimal effort for you.
When you call OneSource, it is important to remember that the consultant is not actually a counselor; the consultant is there to match you with a counselor and help schedule your first appointment. The consultant will need some basic identifying information from you to verify that you are a military family member, and then (s)he will listen to what you have to say and ask followup questions. Your first appointment will be scheduled while you are on the phone.
Family members do have routes to counseling options other than OneSource. Your primary care manager (that’s military-speak for “doctor”, if you’re new at this) can refer you to a counselor, or if you got a recommendation from a friend or colleague for a specific counselor, you can set up an appointment and then call TriCare for authorization; the phone call takes about as long as talking to OneSource.
However you choose to access counseling resources, remember that seeking help is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of responsibility, strength, and courage.