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WASHINGTON — Troops or family members who think they may have a stress disorder, drinking problem or some other behavioral health issue can use a new online tool to find advice.

Defense officials this month launched an anonymous, online mental health self-assessment in an effort to educate military families about the signs of serious behavior disorders, and to encourage those suffering from problems to seek professional help.

The assessments, online at www.MilitaryMentalHealth.org, cover symptoms of depression, bipolar disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and alcohol abuse.

Dr. (Col.) Joyce Adkins, a psychologist with the Defense Department’s force health protection directorate, said officials expect the online tool will be welcomed by troops who are concerned about the stigma of mental health issues but are worried they may have serious problems.

The process is confidential, she said, noting that the surveys don’t ask for any identifying information and aren’t even hosted on military servers.

“We hope to collect some general stats on use for future projects, but this program isn’t about collecting data,” Adkins said. “It’s about individual well-being. That’s why we made sure that this is completely anonymous.”

Adkins emphasized that the self-assessment is not designed to take the place of professional treatment. Everyone who visits the site is provided information on Military One Source counseling services, which can also be accessed anonymously, and ways to contact military physicians for face-to-face sessions.

“This is also for family members, too,” she said. “Family members have stress during deployments, and this can help them deal with their own health concerns.

“Or, if they’re concerned about the behavior of their servicemembers, this can help them understand what those troops might be going through.”

The department has begun linking to the online assessments through the services’ Web sites and will including information on the program in various forcewide health initiatives throughout the year.

For more information, visit the self-assessment site at: www.mentalhealthscreening.org.

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