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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 Lately though, she’s withdrawn and maybe a little down.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.

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Last Updated: February 06, 2024
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