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TRICARE offers help for depression

The TRICARE graphic  (Courtesy graphic)

The TRICARE graphic (Courtesy graphic)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Depression can strike anyone, but the symptoms can be dramatically different between men and women.

Signs and symptoms

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 20 million people are currently dealing with depression. Servicemembers exposed to traumatic events during their deployment have a higher risk for developing depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Common symptoms for men and women include feelings of sadness and hopelessness, sleeping problems, weight gain or loss, trouble thinking clearly, isolation or feelings of guilt.

Differences between men and women may include:

- More willing to acknowledge the physical symptoms of depression such as fatigue, irritability, sleeplessness 
- May engage in more risky behaviors such as driving recklessly or getting in fights 
- Are more irritable and angry, especially in relationships 
- Abuse alcohol or other substances 
- Are more likely to complete suicide 

- More willing to acknowledge feelings related to depression such as sadness, worthlessness, and excessive guilt 
- More likely to have an anxiety disorder 
- More willing to admit to problems and seek help 
- Are more likely to attempt suicide, but less likely to complete it

Treatment is available

The good news is there are effective treatments for depression. Women tend to seek help for depression, while men are more likely to deny their symptoms or not even recognize them. However, help is available for everyone through TRICARE.

The first step is to take a self-assessment questionnaire of depression symptoms, available here.

For scores greater than 10, or if these symptoms make normal activities very difficult, it is a good idea to schedule an appointment with your doctor.

Active duty servicemembers should always seek care first at a military treatment facility, when available. Active duty members must have a referral from their primary care manager and have prior authorization from TriWest before seeking behavioral healthcare services outside the base clinic. Members enrolled in TRICARE Prime Remote may call TriWest at 1-888-TRIWEST (874-9378) to help obtain authorization for civilian behavioral health care.

Family members are eligible for eight behavioral health care visits each fiscal year (Oct. 1-Sept. 30) without pre-authorization from TriWest. If a family member receives care beyond the original eight visits, they will need authorization from TriWest. Beneficiaries can find a network provider here

Help at home

In addition to the self-assessment questionnaire and additional benefits information, TriWest's Web site has numerous self-help resources. Available at no cost via streaming video or as a two-DVD set, The "Help from Home" series offers advice from behavioral health experts who are also combat veterans and military families that have coped with effects of PTSD.

TriWest's Self-Help Resources Web page offers articles, brochures and links to additional resources on a variety of topics, spanning from children's behavioral issues to dealing with depression or suicide.

Additional sites to visit include: 
- Military OneSource  
- National Institute of Mental Health 
- National Foundation for Depressive Illness  
- After Deployment