FALLS CHURCH, Va. –
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mental health challenges among youth
are on the rise nationwide. During childhood, mental wellness is especially important because it contributes to physical health, resiliency, and social skills. It’s also key to reaching developmental and emotional milestones. TRICARE covers mental health services
for beneficiaries of all ages.
“Mental health impacts every aspect of your child’s life. This includes how your child may handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices,” said Dr. Krystyna Bienia, clinical psychologist, and senior policy analyst at the Defense Health Agency. “If your child is struggling, don’t wait to find them help.”
Notice Changes in Your Child’s Behavior
As a parent or caregiver, you may notice new behaviors—like talking back or acting out—beginning to show up in daily life. You may also see it’s harder for your child to focus on tasks or control impulses.
According to Mentalhealth.gov, children who may be experiencing mental or emotional distress often display signs or symptoms
- Emotional outbursts, increased irritability, or out-of-control behavior
- Persistent sadness that lasts two weeks or more
- Worries or fears that interfere with daily life, such as difficulty concentrating or participating in usual activities
- Changes in sleeping or eating habits
- Changes in academic performance, causing trouble in or avoiding or missing school
- Withdrawing from or avoiding social interactions or other drastic changes in personality or behavior
Signs of possible mental health problems in youth can vary. They can be mild and brief or more serious and persistent. So, it’s important to know what to look out for. And take proactive steps when you notice changes in your child’s behavior.
Start a Conversation
If you’ve seen changes in your child’s behavior, or if you have concerns about your child’s mental health, what should you do next?
First, talk with your child
about what you’ve observed. Ask how they’re doing and if there’s anything they want to talk about. Let your child know you care about them and want to help.
Next, consider scheduling an appointment with your child’s primary care manager
(PCM). Many providers ask about mental health concerns at well-child visits or annual physicals to detect potential problems early on. Let your child’s PCM know of your concerns and request a mental health screening.
“Talking to a professional can give you and your child important information and insight,” said Bienia. “Showing your child that you care communicates that you’re there for them. That they’re not alone.”
Seek Medical Care
Some military hospitals and clinics
offer mental health services for children and youth. But, you can make an appointment with a TRICARE-authorized mental health network provider no matter what health plan you have. You don’t need a referral or pre-authorization for most outpatient mental health care
. If you need help finding a mental health provider, you can use the Find a Doctor
tool or call your TRICARE regional contractor
Your child may also be able to speak with a mental health professional by audio or on video in the comfort of your home. Your regional contractor has a network of providers who offer telemedicine services
. You can search for one through your regional contractor’s network provider directory
If your child is in suicidal crisis or emotional distress, dial 988 to connect with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
. The three-digit number connects you with trained counselors who can help your child get the help they need right away.
Seek Non-Medical Care
You can also get help for your child through non-medical resources. Military OneSource
is a Department of Defense program that provides a safe space to speak confidentially with a licensed mental health provider. This free, short-term, non-medical counseling is available in person, by telephone, via secure chat, and by secure video sessions.
Another option is the Military and Family Life Counseling Program
, which is offered at and near many military installations worldwide. Military and family life counselors are licensed professionals who provide situational, problem-solving counseling confidentially.
Take the First Step
Mental health is a vital part of the overall health and well-being of your children and the entire family. If you think your child needs help, take the next step. Learn more about how to get mental health care, covered services, costs, and more on the TRICARE website
. You can also find specifics about covered treatments in the Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Services Fact Sheet
. For a quick overview on seeking mental health care, check out this new mental health video
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