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STUTTGART, Germany — Feeling stressed out?

Troops and military families stationed overseas, including spouses of deployed troops, now can receive free telephone consultations to help them deal with issues in their lives.

The program, launched by Military OneSource, aims to tackle issues such as parenting and family problems, holiday loneliness, difficult decisions, communication woes and grieving.

Eligible Defense Department employees and adult family members can call a toll-free phone number and then be linked to a personal consultant who would perform up to six one-hour consultations. The stateside consultants are part of Military OneSource’s network of providers.

The service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The program was established because concerns were voiced at a 2005 U.S. European Command quality-of-life conference. Family support providers such as chaplains and therapists, it was found, often were deploying with troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, leaving services lacking in Europe.

“We really heard of this issue from the families, not the servicemembers,” said Wayne Boswell, quality-of-life chief at EUCOM’s personnel directorate. “They were saying that the same level of services were not here as when the servicemembers were back here.”

That pilot program was expanded to include all eligible DOD employees and civilians worldwide who are based outside the continental U.S.

Myriad issues affect military families before, during and after deployments.

According to a February 2007 report by the American Psychological Association, predeployment issues include anger and protest, emotional detachment and marital fighting.

During a troop’s deployment, issues back on the home front include disorganization, sleep problems, fear for safety of deployed troops and anxiety.

The reunion and post-deployment periods, according to the report, often spawn apprehension over redefined roles, resentment over lost independence and difficulty by the servicemember in disengaging from his combat orientation.

The telephone consultations are not geared toward solving clinical-level problems, such as alcohol and substance abuse, post-traumatic stress or bipolar disorders; nor is it designed to take the place of group counseling such as with family and marital issues.

Americans often prefer dealing with other Americans on mental-health issues rather than seeing foreign doctors and therapists in their local German or Italian economies.

“It doesn’t mean it is worse care,” Boswell said. “It just means it is different care, and people want to go where they are most comfortable.”

The Military OneSource service also enables people to seek help more discreetly, Boswell said, and perhaps avoid the anxiety of being seen walking into counseling services located on U.S. installations.

Ben Middleton, vice president of core service for Centerstone, a Nashville, Tenn.-based mental and behavioral health-care provider, said person-to-person consultations are best. But telephone consultations, he said, can be effective at mitigating small stressors and preventing them from becoming big problems.

“You want to get (clients) calm, or get them to the point where they can unleash, let loose or relieve their anxieties just by talking it out,” Middleton said.

“They just need to get over the hump. If left unaddressed, it could get worse. That is where these consultations can be helpful. You want to keep it from getting to the next level.”

By the numbers

Numbers to get help: In Germany, Italy, United Kingdom and most locations, dial toll-free: 00-800-3429-6477.

Toll-free numbers for other locations can be found at the Web site www.militaryonesource.com. Click on “international numbers” or “more numbers” on the right side of the screen.

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