Sometimes it comes as a late-night phone call or text message. Other times, it is simply a tired, empty sigh into a coffee mug when you ask a friend how things are going. Occasionally, a friend may not even tell you that anything is troubling them. You just know. Sooner or later, we all encounter challenges in military life. When a friend comes to you asking for help, where can you turn? What can you say to help them through their struggles?
The good news is that you don’t need to have all the answers yourself. You don’t have to be a professional therapist either. Sometimes the best thing you can do is be a listening ear, a supportive smile, or a strong hug. For the times when loving encouragement doesn’t seem to be enough to support your friend, there are many resources available that can help.
- Military OneSource: Call 1-800-342-9647 any time, 24/7, for free confidential counseling and support. Military families can use a counselor up to 12 times a year for a variety of issues, including stress, anxiety, marriage, deployment, children, etc. You do not need a referral from a doctor or from TRICARE. Military OneSource can help you set up a free, confidential counseling session. You can choose to see a counselor in person in your area or schedule a phone or video interview from anywhere. The long-distance appointment option may be particularly helpful to a friend stationed overseas.
- Suicide Hotline: If you have any reason to believe a friend is considering suicide, don’t hesitate to call the suicide hotline, or ask them to make the call. The number is 1-800-273-8255. The helpline changed its name in 2011 to the Veterans Crisis Line so that it could better serve the military community. Use the Veterans Crisis Line website to open an online chat or send a text to 838255.
- American Red Cross: They can send an emergency message to a service member anywhere in the world, even if you don’t have regular communication. This is a great resource during deployment, especially to communicate the death of a family member or the birth of the service member’s child. To send a Red Cross message, you need to know basic information about your service member—their military unit, rank, and social security number. Visit the Red Cross website or call 877-272-7337 to send an emergency message.
- Give an Hour: This volunteer organization provides free mental support and counseling to members of the military and their families. It is a national network of professional healthcare providers who donate their services one hour at a time. Use the Give an Hour website to search for a provider, then contact them directly to set up an appointment. While you can use the website at any time, their counselors do not provide emergency assistance or 24/7 services.
- Veteran Caregiver Support Line: Caring for a wounded veteran can be emotionally or physically exhausting. However, with a national network of veteran caregivers, support is never far away. Family members and loved ones can find the resources and support they need by calling 855-260-3274. The caregiver support website offers support around the clock for veteran caregivers.
- Casualty Assistance Program: Loved ones who have lost a service member may feel overwhelmed. When you don’t know what to say or how to help, let them know that the DoD offers free support to surviving family members to help them settle affairs and start benefits or entitlements. The DoD Casualty Assistance Program is summarized here.
- Be There Peer Support: Call 844-357-PEER or text 480-360-6188 to talk to a coach who is either a veteran or a military spouse. This hotline is funded by the DoD and is available 24/7. They serve active duty and family members, including dependent spouses and children. Their confidential conversations can provide resources, encouragement and a reminder that no one should go through military life alone.
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: If you have a friend struggling with any type of domestic violence, you can get them help by calling 800-799-SAFE. You or your friend can make this call 24/7 to speak to someone who can help them break the cycle of domestic violence and abuse.
- Child Abuse Hotline: Call 800-336-4592 if you have any reason to believe a child is being physically or emotionally abused. The DoD runs this hotline, and they can support you with information or help you file an official report.
No matter what challenges your friend may be facing, remind them that they’re not alone.