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Five Misconceptions about Behavioral Health

An Airman from the 823rd Security Forces Squadron hugs a loved one after returning from a deployment April 29 at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Members of the 823rd SFS recently returned from a six-month deployment to Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Gina Chiaverotti)

Airmen returning from deployments should understand that no one is immune to the effects of deployments. However, deployment may increase the intensity of the experience for you, your spouse or child, resulting in some form of behavioral health issues. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Gina Chiaverotti)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- No one is immune to the effects of deployments. However, deployment may increase the intensity of the experience for you, your spouse or child, resulting in some form of behavioral health issues. These issues can range from anxiety, depression, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse and may even lead to thoughts of suicide.

Common Misconceptions
With May being "Mental Health Awareness Month," it is the perfect time to learn the truth about some of common behavioral health myths:

Myth: Behavioral health issues only affect a small population of certain groups.
Fact: Approximately one in five adults struggle with a behavioral health disorder of varying degrees, making this more common than cancer, heart and lung disease combined. One in four families will be effected, whether it is the children, the adults or a combination of both who are suffering. Behavioral health issues do not discriminate - problems can impact anyone regardless of ethnicity, age or sex.

Myth: I don't have a behavioral health problem; I just need something to help me relax.
Fact: Often, people self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. Since alcohol is a depressant, it can lead to an increase in behavioral health symptoms and addiction problems. Feeling a "high" while on alcohol or drugs is temporary and when it's over, it can lead to more cravings, increased depression or other symptoms.

Myth: My TRICARE benefits won't cover behavioral health care.
Fact: TRICARE covers mental and behavioral health care that is medically or psychologically necessary. Arrange a screening with your primary care manager, who can then help you decide whether to seek additional treatments if symptoms are found. If you do pursue treatment, TRICARE covers up to eight behavioral health visits with a network provider without an authorization.

Active duty Service members must receive a referral from their PCM or military treatment facility in order to seek treatment outside of the MTF. Active duty family members do not need preauthorization for the first eight therapy visits with a network provider. For treatment beyond the initial eight therapy visits, beneficiaries are required to receive authorization.

For more on your benefits, visit the "Beneficiary Services" page on www.triwest.com, select "Handbooks and Brochures" and "Behavioral Health Care Benefits" or call 1-888-TRIWEST. You can also Visit the "Mental Health and Behavior" section at www.tricare.mil for specific coverage and associated costs.

Myth: Behavioral health disorders are untreatable.
Fact: The majority of people with behavioral health disorders improve when they receive appropriate treatment. Types of treatment depend on your diagnosis, severity of symptoms and preference. A variety of treatments, including medications and short-term psychotherapies, have proven effective. Once you or your loved one is feeling better, treatment may need to be continued for several months--and in some cases, indefinitely--to prevent a relapse.

Myth: Seeing a provider is my only option for help.
Fact: Several options are available for assistance in learning and dealing with behavioral health related issues. These include:

"Help From Home" video series features military families who have faced the challenges of deployment and reintegration. This and other tools are available on the Behavioral Health portal of www.triwest.com.

TriWest also provides a 24/7 telephone access and crisis intervention services. Service members and their families in the TRICARE 21-state West Region can request assistance with a mental health crisis or with simple requests for behavioral health information by calling (866) 284-3743.

MilitaryOneSource.com has articles, booklets, audio CDs and other interactive tools to help you learn more about behavioral health issues.

Final Truth
If you still have questions about behavioral health, such as signs and symptoms, contact your health care provider for the real story, and to find the help needed when stress or depression, or emotional challenges that come with life are not resolving over time.