Skip main navigation

Military Health System

Clear Your Browser Cache

This website has recently undergone changes. Users finding unexpected concerns may care to clear their browser's cache to ensure a seamless experience.

Ask the Doc: Mental Health Tips for You or a Loved One

Image of Ask the Doc: Mental Health Tips for You or a Loved One. When your friend is having a tough time and you don’t know how to reach out, retired U.S. Public Health Service Capt. (Dr.) Joshua Morganstein, deputy director at the Center for Study of Traumatic Stress in the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences and vice chair of the University’s department of psychiatry, offers three tips: (1) Set the stage for a conversation. (2) Find the words. (3) Follow-up. (Photo By Sara Barger, MHS Communications)

In this edition of Ask the Doc, we get expert advice from retired U.S. Public Health Service Capt. (Dr.) Joshua Morganstein, deputy director at the Center for Study of Traumatic Stress in the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences and vice chair of the university’s department of psychiatry, on ways to address mental health concerns when a friend, or a loved one is going through a tough time.

Morganstein says, “Service members work hard and manage a wide range of stressors. Sometimes challenges come up that are more difficult to manage. Finding ways to manage new challenges keeps us ready and better able to support those around us.”

Below are different scenarios military service members can experience. For each scenario, we share a key video from Morganstein’s mental health series with answers.

Dear Doc: I can tell that my buddy is having a hard time right now. He’s going through a divorce along with some other problems. I want to reach out to offer support, but it just feels awkward. How should I handle it?

-Sgt. U.N. Sure

Dear Sgt. U.N. Sure,

It’s not easy to know how to approach a friend who might be in need, but Morganstein has three tips for you. Here’s what he has to say:

3 Easy Tips for Hard Conversations - Part 1 

Hi Doc: My colleague doesn’t seem like herself. She’s usually funny, energetic, and very engaged. Lately though, she’s withdrawn and maybe a little down. I think something’s going on with her. What should I do?

-Cpl. Con Cerned

Dear Cpl. Con Cerned,

It’s hard to know what to do when a coworker or friend seems to be struggling, but Morganstein can help. Here’s his advice on what to look for and how to reach out:

What can I do if a friend is having a hard time?

Hi Doc: I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m not enjoying the things I normally do, and I get into arguments with my wife over nothing. I have trouble sleeping, too–some nights I just toss and turn. I have lots of work stress right now. Could that be the problem? Doc, what’s going on with me?

-Lt. Lowe

Dear Lt. Lowe,

Morganstein has some advice for you. Here are signs to look for when you might need help:

Top Signs You Might Need Some Help 

Thanks to all of our letter writers—we hope the doc’s advice helps.


The Military Health System has many resources available to help service members, families, or veterans who are struggling with mental health challenges.

If you’re experiencing a mental health crisis, need immediate assistance, or simply want to talk to someone, confidential help is available 24/7:

  • The Military and Veterans Crisis Line, text-messaging service, and online chat provide free support for all service members, including members of the National Guard and Reserve, and all veterans, even if they are not registered with the Department of Veteran's Affairs or enrolled in VA health care.
  • The Military and Veterans Crisis Line is available outside the continental U.S. at:
    • Europe: 844-702-5495 or DSN 988
    • Pacific: 844-702-5493 or DSN 988
    • Southwest Asia: 855-422-7719 or DSN 988
  • Military OneSource is a 24/7 gateway to trusted information for service members and families that provides resources and confidential help. Call 800-342-9667.
  • The Psychological Health Resource Center is available 24/7 for service members, veterans, and family members with questions about psychological health topics. Trained mental health consultants can help you access mental health care and community support resources in your local area. Call 1-866-966-1020, start a live chat, or visit
  • The inTransition Program has 20 FAQs that are a helpful introduction to the program. You can call 800-424-7877, or at 800-748-81111 in Australia, Germany, Italy, Japan, and South Korea only. You can also email the program directly at:
  • The DHA, DOD, and VA have many other mental health resources available to any service member, families, or veteran beneficiaries who are struggling with mental health challenges. Read Mental Health is Health for a complete list of resources for immediate assistance or to make appointments.

You also may be interested in...

Aug 22, 2023

3 Easy Tips for Hard Conversations - Part 3

3 Easy Tips for Hard Conversations - Part 3

Part 3 - Follow Up Is a friend having a tough time? Do you want to talk to them and don't know how? Dr. Joshua Morganstein gives 3 tips on how to talk to a friend or colleague who you think might be having a hard time. 1. Set the stage for a conversation 2. Find the words 3. Follow-up This is the third video in a series that gives advice on ...

Article Around MHS
Jul 25, 2023

Defense Public Health Experts Investigate If Minority Group Service Members are More Likely to Experience Behavioral Health Problems

A recent Department of Defense study found American Indian and Alaska Native U.S. Army Soldiers had higher rates of suicidal ideation than white soldiers. The DOD is investigating behavioral health disparities among minority groups in the military to see how they might mirror similar disparities in the civilian population. (Graphic illustration: Steven Basso, Defense Centers for Public Health-Aberdeen)

U.S. public health agencies such as the National Institute of Mental Health have recognized that certain minority groups appear to experience greater risk for certain behavioral health disorders. The higher rates of adverse health problems in minority groups are often referred to as “disparities.”

Article Around MHS
Jul 18, 2023

Tips for Managing Post-PCS Stress

PCS Stress inforgraphic

Moving season is in full swing for many military families. The process of a Permanent Change of Station, or PCS, can be both exciting and stressful. We've got some tips to help ease the rigors of relocation.

Article Around MHS
Jul 6, 2023

Uniformed Services University Psychiatrists Develop Global Disaster and Preventive Psychiatry Training for American Psychiatric Association

The Uniformed Services University, in conjunction with the American Psychiatric Association, has created a new course titled "Disaster and Prevention Psychiatry: Protecting Health and Fostering Community Resilience." USU's new course was created through its department of psychiatry and the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress in conjunction with the APA. (Photo: Uniformed Services University)

In the wake of rising global disasters and their impact on the population, the Uniformed Services University, in conjunction with the American Psychiatric Association, has created a first-of-its-kind course to understand and prepare for such crises.

Skip subpage navigation
Refine your search
Last Updated: February 06, 2024
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on X Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery