Mental health

A message from the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs

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MHS Colleagues,

Mental health care is a priority focus for the Military Health System every single day, but as May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I wanted to highlight the effort we are making to address this critical need.

Secretary Cisneros signed the implementing policy for the Brandon Act on May 5, with Teri and Patrick Caserta present.  The Act, designed to help service members access timely mental health evaluations, is named for their son Brandon, a young sailor who died by suicide.  We welcome this measure as part of our approach to suicide prevention and mental health and it was a privilege to meet the Casertas.

One of my personal goals is to do everything possible to eliminate the stigma that too often still inhibits our people from seeking and getting care.  Mental health is health, period – and we need to embrace that fact and encourage and support people in need of this care. We are working to develop training to help educate those in leadership roles on how to support their people, to look for signs that someone is struggling and to enable them to get help.  Efforts are underway to address the shortage of mental health providers in our system.  We know the answers aren’t simple, but we are committed to finding them.

There is a wide range of resources available to help us all learn more about mental health, and they can be found here: Mental Health Spotlight.  Please take time to learn about them, to know what is available and how to access them.  Our collective success in improving mental health across the total force starts with an individual commitment by each of us, to learn as much as we can about this issue and how to put the resources we have in play, to demonstrate by our own actions and words the importance of mental health.  We need to normalize seeking mental health care so it becomes as accepted as seeing a doctor for the flu or a broken bone. 

As leaders of the MHS, we have a particular responsibility to help move these goals forward.  I know I can count on you to keep mental health priorities in mind this month, and throughout the year.

Very Respectfully,


Lester Martinez-López, M.D., M.P.H.

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs

Mental Health Awareness Month Message

Posted on Updated on

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RMKS/1.  May is Mental Health Awareness Month, an opportunity to help each 
other recognize the many ways that behavioral health conditions impact our 
lives, as well as our individual and team readiness.  It is also an opportune 
time to remind ourselves to advocate for those experiencing life stressors, 
as well as an opportunity to highlight existing resources and services 
available to the Navy and Marine Corps team to ensure the delivery of the 
most appropriate service to meet Service Member needs.

Military service can be complex, presenting stressors that are wide-reaching 
and have readiness impacts to our Sailors, Marines, their families, and our 
civilian workforce.  As you stand the watch on behalf of the American people, 
I ask you to take time to look out for yourself and those who serve alongside 
you.  I encourage you to reach out to others and focus on fostering social 
connectedness, particularly those connections that may have been weakened 
during the pandemic.  Social connectedness is integral to our readiness as it 
not only improves our mental health and well-being but strengthens our 
immunity and can even increase our longevity.

You are never alone and there is no wrong door to get help.  We have a full 
range of mental health resources that include mental health and medical 
professionals, family counselors, chaplains, and other support services to 
help you get the right care, at the right level, when you need it.  Mental 
health services are available across the globe at military medical treatment 
facilities, above, on, and below the sea, and embedded within operational 
units.  We have non-medical mental health resources available through our 
Fleet and Family Support Centers, Marine Corps Community Services, Military 
and Family Life Counseling, Deployment Resiliency Counselors, the 
Psychological Help Outreach Program, Veterans Affairs Vet Centers, and 
Military OneSource.  Our chaplains provide confidential counseling and foster 
spiritual readiness.  Our civilian teammates can access a wide range of 
services through the Civilian Employee Assistance Program.

Share with others when you have positive experiences seeking and receiving 
counseling.  I especially encourage leaders to set this example.  We have a 
duty to remove stigma, and encourage others to make time for their mental 
health.  Your actions can encourage a shipmate to get the help they need.
Check in often with your fellow Sailors and Marines.  Help them feel more 
socially connected.  Do not wait until you see them struggling.  When they 
need additional support, help them get connected to services that can provide 
assistance.  You can be the difference.  Together, we must fight stigma, 
promote mental health education, and normalize taking care of our mental 

2.  Released by the Honorable Carlos Del Toro, Secretary of the Navy.