By Buddy Blouin

Reaching out for help is never a bad thing, and the Army is finally wising up. Thanks to the Brandon Act, the U.S. Army is empowering its Soldiers with more avenues for mental health resources. Getting a mental health evaluation is a great place to start, as it can help you and your healthcare workers understand what type of help you need. Now, getting a mental health evaluation referral in the Army is easier than ever.

Read next: Military Being Urged to Implement Brandon Act to Prevent Further Suicides

What Is a Mental Health Evaluation?

A mental health evaluation, carried out by healthcare professionals such as doctors, psychologists, or psychiatrists, serves the purpose of identifying mental health issues and determining appropriate treatment.

This process typically comprises multiple components involving a mental health evaluator. Here’s what to expect:

  • Physical Examination: This step is aimed at eliminating physical factors as potential causes of mental symptoms.
  • Laboratory Tests: This includes a range of assessments such as bloodwork, brain scans, and inquiries into substance use.
  • Mental Health History: This aspect delves into the duration of symptoms, family mental health history, and prior treatments received.
  • Personal History: This section explores factors like marital status, occupation, military service, legal history, upbringing, stressors, and past traumas.
  • Mental Assessment: This component involves the evaluation of an individual's thoughts, feelings, behaviors, the impact of symptoms, and observable traits.
  • Cognitive Assessment: It encompasses testing cognitive abilities and assessing an individual's capacity to carry out daily responsibilities.

It’s worth noting, however, that there are some differences between, say, a court-ordered mental health evaluation and an assessment put on by the the American Armed Forces.

In the military context, mental health assessments involve a two-stage self-report using validated tools to assess alcohol use, PTSD, and depressive symptoms. This is followed by a provider interview to address concerns, educate, and make referrals.

Stage 1 involves a self-report survey for everyone, while Stage 2 is when additional questionnaires for positive PTSD or depression screenings are conducted. Finally, there can be a Stage 3, which is an interview to clarify responses, assess risk, and provide referrals.

The last several years have been presenting a variety of challenges for the U.S. military in terms of mental health. Now, the Brandon Act is providing service members with even more mental health resources. This includes the ability to take a mental health evaluation without giving a reason.

The Brandon Act Is Opening the Door to More Mental Health Resources

Under the Brandon Act, 2023 has seen expansions to mental health policies and resources for those serving. A key feature that aims to help Soldiers is the ability to ask for a mental health evaluation referral from those in a higher rank without stating a reason.

It’s getting better, but mental health still comes with underlying stigmas. Not being able to access the necessary mental health resources can be detrimental for those affected.

If you are a Soldier, Reservist, or are in the Army National Guard, and have over 30 days of active duty service, the guidelines apply to you. For those who don’t meet those guidelines, a new framework is already being developed to help them access mental healthcare as well.

This is a huge move for the Army, as the other branches of the U.S. military have already embraced the changes. The Army has been criticized for its recently released suicide prevention plan that came out right before the Brandon Act guidelines but three years later than it was supposed to.

Suggested read: The Best Online Military Mental Health and Teletherapy Resources

How to Get a Mental Health Evaluation

In the military, Mental Health Assessments (DHA4 and DHA5) help screen warfighters for important health information involving deployment. This helps professionals identify things like PTSD and provide quality care.

If you go on a deployment that is at least 30 days long, you're required to take an assessment. Your DHA4 takes place between 181 days and 18 months after deployment. The DHA5 is held between 18 and 30 months after your deployment.

However, while these assessments are the final stages of the 5-part DHA assessment cycle, what about mental health issues that show up from other forms of service? What about issues that stem from outside of the military? All of these are valid.

No matter when or what you are going through, you’ll want to seek help from the resources available to you. Now, you can get a referral from the higher-ups for a mental health evaluation without retaliation or having to give a reason.

More like this: The Dangerous Shortage of Mental Health Services for Active Duty Military




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