Mental Health Problems


Guide to VA Mental Health Services,
South Central (VISN 16) Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center (MIRECC)


How You Know If You Have a Mental Health Problem

Sometimes it can be hard to tell. Since the brain and body affect one another, mental problems can cause physical problems along with changes in thinking, feeling, and behavior. In addition to commonly recognized emotional problems, like feeling very sad or nervous, symptoms and signs of mental health problems can include:

  • changes in sleep, appetite, weight, or sex life
  • headaches or other physical pain
  • muscle tension and weakness
  • decreased energy, motivation, or interests
  • problems with attention, concentration, or memory
  • irritability, anger, or “short temper”
  • feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, or hopelessness
  • unhealthy behaviors (misusing drugs, alcohol, food, sex, or other behaviors like gambling or spending too much money to cope with stress or emotions)
  • problems functioning at home, work, or school

The most important thing to remember is to talk with your primary care or mental health provider when you notice new symptoms or problems. Your health care team can help you figure out what’s going on and what to do about it.

How You Can Find the Mental Health Care You Need

If you have a mental health emergency (like wanting to hurt yourself or someone else), go to the nearest hospital emergency room or call 911. If it is not a VA hospital, you may be able to move to a VA facility depending on your circumstances.
If you are feeling suicidal, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1 for the Veterans Suicide Prevention Hotline, or visit
and click on Veterans Chat Live with a Counselor
Mental health professionals are available to talk with you 24 hours per day. If you have a mental health problem and have never been seen in a VA hospital or clinic, call VA general information hotline at 1-800-827-1000 or contact the San Diego VA (contact information below). If you are already using VA medical services, ask your primary care provider to arrange for you to see a VA mental health provider.


Resources for Mental Health Care


San Diego VA Healthcare System

Please contact your Primary Care Provider or member of the OEF/OIF Care Team for a referral for mental health services available at the San Diego VA.

Primary Care Line:
(858) 552-7475

OEF/OIF Care Team Contacts:

Mission Valley & Chula Vista:
Bridget Salzman, MSW
(619) 400-5271

La Jolla:
Rikka Bonnette, LCSW
(858) 642-3615

Patrick O’Shea, MSW
(760) 643-2079

Veterans in need of emergency mental health care can call, or come to the San Diego VA Medical Center, Psychiatric Emergency Clinic (PEC) located on 2-North, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.; or, the Emergency Department 24/7.

Access and Crisis Line
24/7 Toll Free Hotline: 800-479-3339
(619) 641-6992 TDD

Provides mental health crisis intervention and information and referral to mental health services in San Diego County, including referrals to mental health care professionals who accept Medi-Cal and those who do not have health insurance.

San Diego Warmline
(619) 295-1055
Toll Free: (800) 930-9276

Provides consumer support and information for those suffering from mental health disability or are having trouble coping with a crisis/stressful situation. A warmline is a peer-run listening line staffed by people in recovery themselves.

Give an Hour

Currently, GAH is dedicated to meeting the mental health needs of the troops and families affected by the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. We provide counseling to individuals, couples and families, and children and adolescents. We offer treatment for anxiety, depression, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries, sexual health and intimacy concerns, and loss and grieving.

Family & Peer Support Helpline
(619) 543-1434

Free, safe, confidential information, referrals, and support for peers (individuals with lived mental health experience) and their loved ones.

Gifford Clinic
140 Arbor Dr
San Diego, CA 92103
(619) 543-7795

Provides outpatient evaluation and psychosocial rehabilitative services. Provides care coordination, psycho-pharmacology, and psychotherapy for individuals, couples, family, and groups. Offers special programs providing treatment for various disorders. We are dedicated the treatment of individuals who are uninsured or receive publicly funded insurance (e.g., Medi-Cal). The clinic welcomes individuals with serious mental disorder and also those with interacting substance abuse and other mental disorders.

NAMI Support Groups
Main: (619) 543-1434
Helpline: (800) 523-5933

Structured support groups for family members and others, and open to all that need the assistance. Provide both ongoing support and help with crisis management. Regularly offered throughout the county.


Chula Vista Medical Plaza
678 3rd Avenue
Chula Vista, CA 91910

Euclid Family Counseling Center
286 Euclid Avenue, Suite 302
San Diego, CA 92114

King-Chavez Health Center
950 South Euclid Avenue
San Diego, CA 92114

National City Family Clinic
1136 D Avenue
National City, CA 91950

San Ysidro Health Center
4004 Beyer Boulevard
San Ysidro, CA 92173

Provides a one year program, free of charge, for patients suffering from depression. Patients work with a primary doctor and a case manager, includes 4 visits with the primary doctor. Also, provides referrals to community activities.


Vista Clinic
524 West Vista Way
Vista, CA 92083
(760) 758-1150

Escondido Clinic
1520 South Escondido Blvd
Escondido, CA 92025
(760) 796-7760

Provides short term mental health services to individuals in crisis or urgent need. Services include: crisis intervention; medication evaluations; short term case management; and linkage to community resources. Mental health services will be provided by a multidisciplinary treatment team and clients will be involved in their service planning and treatment.

Breathe2Relax App

Breathe2Relax is a portable stress management tool. Built on the iPhone mobile app platform, Breathe2Relax is a hands-on diaphragmatic breathing exercise. Breathing exercises have been documented to decrease the body’s ‘fight-or-flight’ (stress) response, and help with mood stabilization, anger control, and anxiety management. For iTunes (iOS) and Google Play (Android).