The holiday season has officially begun. Everywhere you look decorations adorn store fronts and everyone is talking about giving thanks and counting blessings. It's supposed to be "the Most Wonderful Time of the Year." But for many military families, the holiday season can be stressful - especially when a loved one is away.

Dealing with deployment during the holiday can be difficult. While military families are proud of the service and sacrifice their loved one is making, they also deal with emotional challenges that can cause them to feel lonely, angry and sad. Often, the pressure to have the "perfect" holiday can aggravate anxiety and cause stress.

Military Pathways is a DoD funded mental health education and screening program.

This holiday season, servicemembers and their families can take advantage of Military Pathway's free, anonymous, online or telephone mental health self-assessments tool, that is actually available year-round. The self-assessment contains a series of questions that, when linked together, help create a picture of how an individual is feeling and whether they could benefit from talking to a health professional.

Once the self-assessment is completed, the individual receives information on how to get help, including services provided through the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

To access the online self-assessments, visit Military Pathways.

In addition to the online assessments, Military Pathways offers webinars throughout the year that address different mental health topics.

As part of these webinars, participants will:

* Learn to distinguish between depression and the holiday blues

* Receive advice, tips and strategies to cope with sadness and stress that may be triggered by deployment

* Discover ways service personnel and families can manage multiple deployments

* Learn about the range of treatment and educational resources available

Theses webinars are for servicemembers, veterans, family members and clinicians who work with the military.

To reserve your spot, register online or email.

Military Pathways is funded by the Department of Defense, Force Health Protection and Readiness and is available to families in all branches, including the National Guard and Reserve.