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Getting Out of a Funk: Fighting Depression

Dr. Jack Smith, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Clinical and Program Policy and Acting Chief Medical Officer, TRICARE Management Activity

TRICARE - December, 2010 Everyone has days when they feel sad, low or down. When these days last for two or more weeks; it’s time to consider getting help. Life is full of ups and downs. Sometimes emotions may be hard to recognize without the extra stress of the holidays. The holiday season is often a time of joy for many people. They may bring a host of other emotions for others—especially military families with deployed loved ones. About one out of every six adults will have depression at some time in their life. Depression affects about 15,000,000 American adults every year.

Depression is more than just feeling sad or having a bad day. It is a medical illness that involves the body, mood and thoughts that can’t be willed or wished away. However, it is a treatable disorder. The good news is the majority of people who receive treatment feel better and are able to return to normal lives.

The symptoms of depression may include: sadness, sleep disturbance, appetite change, lack of energy, loss of motivation, slowed pace, increased anxiety, poor concentration, loss of self confidence and thoughts of wanting to harm yourself or others. Depression can be a recurring condition, so paying attention to its symptoms and seeking prompt medical care are important.

If you can't seem to shake the holiday blues, you may be suffering from depression—but help is available. TRICARE offers multiple benefits, services and programs to help.

Non-active duty TRICARE beneficiaries may receive the first eight behavioral health care outpatient visits per fiscal year from a TRICARE provider without a referral or requirement for pre-authorization. To find out more about getting help, go to the Mental Health and Behavior section, under the “My Benefit” portal at www.tricare.mil.

To help beneficiaries privately evaluate their emotional well-being, the Defense Department offers the Military Health Assessment at www.militarymentalhealth.org/. The self-assessment is a good place to start. It's a free, anonymous self-assessment to determine if symptoms are consistent with a condition or concern that may benefit from further evaluation or treatment. The self-assessment also tells beneficiaries where to go if they need additional help.

The Web-based TRICARE Assistance Program (TRIAP) uses telecommunication technologies to provide counseling assistance and behavioral health to active duty service members, spouses and other eligible family members 18 years of age or older. Services include assessments, short-term counseling and, if the TRIAP counselor determines more specialized care is necessary, a referral to a more comprehensive level of care. Eligible beneficiaries can link to their regional contractor’s TRIAP site and get more information about the program at www.tricare.mil/TRIAP.

Military OneSource is another valuable resource for confidential, non-medical assessment, counseling and assistance. Military OneSource is a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week, toll-free information and referral service for active duty soldiers, activated guardsmen and reservists, deployed civilians and their families. It provides information from everyday concerns to deployment and reintegration issues. For more information, contact Military OneSource at www.militaryonesource.com or call 800-342-9647 stateside. Overseas beneficiaries can call U.S. access code + 800-3429-6477 or U.S. access code + 484-530-5908.

Learn more about depression at www.tricare.mil/mybenefit/home/MentalHealthAndBehavior/Conditions/Depression or see your primary care provider.

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