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Military Mental Health and Building Resilience in 2023

Image of Military Mental Health and Building Resilience in 2023. The Brandon Act ensures any active duty service member may seek mental health assistance confidentially, for any reason, at any time, and in any environment, and aims to reduce the stigma associated with seeking mental health care. (Courtesy Defense Health Agency)

The year 2023 has seen increased access to mental health evaluation and treatment across the military and more emphasis on reducing stigma associated with seeking mental health support.

On May 5, 2023, the Department of Defense implemented the Brandon Act to improve service members access to mental health services. The Brandon Act honors U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Caserta, who died by suicide in 2018.

The Brandon Act underscores and reinforces the option service members have to self-refer for a mental health evaluation and seek help confidentially. The legislation was signed into law by President Joe Biden on Dec. 27, 2021, as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022.

On May 26, Dr. Lester Martínez-López, the DOD assistant secretary for health affairs, announced the DOD’s Brandon Act policy.

The three military departments rolled out their implementation of the Brandon Act following the publication of DOD’s guidance. Their message to service members is mental health is health.

The Defense Health Agency and the military services work together to ensure all service members are informed on their options to seek support for a mental health evaluation through self-referral or through their leadership. This collaboration includes implementing training for commanding officers and supervisors who may receive requests from service members for a mental health evaluation to ensure requests are handled in an appropriate and timely manner.

On Sept. 28, 2023, DOD announced five lines of effort to prevent suicides in the military with key enabling tasks that build on more than two years of work by the DOD to reduce harmful behaviors in all forms, including suicide.

Also in September, the DOD published a revised version of DOD Instruction 6490.08, which establishes department policy for fostering a culture of support and strives to create an environment that promotes help-seeking behaviors to dispel the stigma of seeking mental health care or substance misuse education services. “Unrestricted, nonstigmatizing access to mental health care services, which includes voluntarily sought substance misuse education, is essential to maintaining the health and readiness of the total force,” according to the policy.

Mental Health Information and Resources

The MHS is committed to increasing access to mental health services and reducing any stigma associated with seeking care. For a comprehensive overview of DHA’s mental health efforts, go to the Military Health System Mental Health Hub for more articles on DOD policies, tips from experts, how to seek mental health care, TRICARE coverage, and in-depth information on available resources.

For anyone experiencing a mental health crisis, needing immediate assistance, or simply wanting to talk, confidential help is available 24/7.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, call the 988 National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline and press “1”, or text 838255, or chat for the dedicated Veterans Crisis Line and Military Crisis Line. For Spanish, press “2.”

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 www.health.mil/PHRC.

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:dha.ncr.j-9.mbx.inTransition@health.mil.

The Military Health System, DOD, and the Department of Veterans Affairs have many other mental health resources available to any service member, families, or veteran beneficiaries who are struggling with mental health challenges.

To set up a mental health appointment through TRICARE, visit: www.tricare.mil/MentalHealth.

Remember, you are not alone.

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Last Updated: January 08, 2024
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