Reviewed by Tiffany Lange, Psy.D.
Military service can be extremely stressful, especially as a woman in a male-dominated profession. According to a recent report, servicewomen are more likely than men to report mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, and this is often the result of unique stressors faced by female service members.
You might be nervous about talking to a healthcare provider (HCP) or mental health professional about your mental health, so we’ve put together a list of questions to help you get started:
I’m about to deploy. How can I manage my stress while I’m away?
Why you should ask this question: Deployments can bring out stress in the healthiest people, especially if you are in a dangerous environment or separated from your family. Long-term stress can cause health issues or worsen conditions that you already have. Proactive preparation and talking to your HCP about mental health before you deploy can help you identify ways to manage stressors.
I just returned from deployment and am having a hard time adjusting back to my life here. Is there anything I can do?
Why you should ask this question: After being away for months, it takes time to get used to being home and interacting with civilians, even if it’s your family. An adjustment period is common, but there may be tools your HCP can offer to make your transition smoother.
Is my medication causing (or will this medication cause) mood swings or mood changes?
Why you should ask this question: You should know the side effects of any medications you are currently taking or are about to take. A recent study found that about one in three adults in the U.S. are taking medications that can cause depression. Being aware of the potential side effects of your medications will allow you to better prepare to manage them.
Am I at a higher risk for mental health conditions if my family has a history of mental illness/depression/anxiety?
Why you should ask this question: The risk of certain mental health conditions may be higher if you have a family history of them. Being open with your HCP about your medical and family history will help you understand your risk and know what warning signs to watch for.
Should I see a mental health professional?
Why you should ask this question: Seeing your primary care manager (PCM) is a great place to start when managing your health. Just as you might need to see a specialist for your physical body like a cardiologist or gynecologist, there may be times when you need to see a mental health professional to receive care for your mental health. Your HCP can help you decide when you should see a mental health professional, and which type to see.
What can I do to help protect my mental health throughout my military career and beyond?
Why you should ask this question: Maintaining mission readiness goes beyond your physical body. Exercising and eating nutritious meals are ways you can care for your physical health, but your mental and emotional health need regular care as well. Creating a mental healthcare routine with your provider’s guidance can prepare you for the challenges your future might bring.
Can others, like my teammates or leaders, find out about my mental health treatment?
Why you should ask this question: There are a lot of myths about receiving mental health treatment in the military. Talking to your HCP about your concerns and finding out who has access to your mental health records may put your mind at ease about seeking treatment.
What warning signs should I look for, to know when it’s time to get help?
Why you should ask this question: Being in the military means that you will face unique challenges that can impact your mental and emotional well-being. Many times these feelings are a normal response to your stressful environment, but being aware of the warning signs will make sure that you get help when you need it.
Is the way I feel “normal”?
Why you should ask this question: It’s easy to mistake your symptoms for something else or dismiss your mood changes as premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Sometimes these symptoms are completely normal, but sometimes they might be a sign of a health condition. Being open and honest with your HCP about your symptoms, especially when you feel something isn’t right, will help you live your healthiest life.
If I have a mental health issue, will I need long-term treatment?
Why you should ask this question: The amount of time that you receive treatment depends on the condition being treated and how it’s being treated. Asking your provider these questions ahead of time will help you understand what to expect.