Written by Dr. Joyce Grissom, HNFS Chief Medical Officer
Unparalleled change leads to increased stress. The entire year has been full of challenges. 2020 has been an unprecedented national and global event. As with any change or challenge that affects our lives, this one has not been without great stress.
The short, dark and sometimes lonely days of fall and winter increase the chance that you might be experiencing feelings of depression and anxiety – and that’s without COVID-19. Social distancing, juggling work responsibilities and caring for young children, disabled or elderly family members who may be studying virtually full or part-time all contribute to an increased likelihood that you could be struggling with depression and anxiety at this time. TRICARE has multiple benefits in place to support you and your family.
Mental Health Benefit
In 2017, TRICARE expanded mental health benefits to eliminate limits and broaden your access to new treatments and programs. Even before COVID-19, TRICARE covered telemental health services. During the COVID-19 emergency, TRICARE increased telehealth coverage to include audio-only services, including psychotherapy, and audio/video telehealth for Intensive Outpatient Programs. To find out more about TRICARE-covered mental health benefits, visit www.tricare.mil/mentalhealth.
For beneficiaries with Autism Spectrum Disorder, the TRICARE benefit includes applied behavior analysis (ABA) services through the Comprehensive Autism Care Demonstration Program. To increase access to care during the COVID-19 emergency period, TRICARE is temporarily allowing parent/caregiver guidance to be rendered via telemedicine. Learn more at www.tricare.mil/ACD.
Health & Wellness Programs and Resources
Through HNFS, you have access to informative, easy-to-access online programs and telephone-based classes focused on self-care and healthy lifestyle changes. Learn more on our Wellness Programs page.
This past September and October, HNFS mental health clinicians led an interactive, online class called “Stress Management in Times of Uncertainty” that was warmly received by course participants. During the class, participants were encouraged to share their experiences of being cut off from normal support systems, to learn that they were not alone in feeling isolated, and to share strategies for coping and social networking. If you were unable to attend one of the live offerings, a class recording is now available on demand.
Confidential, Non-Medical Counseling
It is normal to have reactions to very abnormal circumstances. Confidential, non-medical counseling is available to military service members and their families at no cost for a variety of issues including marital conflict, stress management and coping with loss. Resources include:
- Military One Source: 1-800-342-9647 (in person, telephone, secure video, online chat)
- Military Family Life Counselor Program: contact through your installation or Guard/Reserve unit's Family Support Coordinator
- Military Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 or text 838255 – access to a trained counselor for active duty, Guard, Reserve and their family and friends
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 offers phone and chat services to those affected by relationship abuse
In closing, social distancing will require all of us to come up with creative solutions to staying connected and getting together this holiday season while we honor and protect one another.
- Bundle up and meet friends and family outside on opposite sides of a fire pit.
- Thanksgiving dinner can be outside this year warmed by friends and family and outdoor heaters.
- Use the wonders of technology to stay connected. If an outside get-together isn’t a possibility, try a video call with family (i.e., Zoom, FaceTime). There are a large number of group games designed for the internet to keep the brain cells and the laughter going.
As you move through the next few months, know there will be a new and more normal time that will follow. In the meantime, remember that your HNFS TRICARE Program associates stand with you.