Army Lifts Ban on Recruits With History of Mental Health Struggles

Army Lifts Ban on Recruits With History of Mental Health Struggles”

For years, potential recruits with histories of self-mutilation, bipolar disorder, depression, and drug or alcohol struggles have been banned from enlisting in the Army.

According to USA Today, the Army enacted the policy in August with no announcement.

The Army did not confirm how many waivers have been issued.

But allowing recruits with mental health conditions to join comes with big risks, as the chance of conditions resurfacing even among those taking prescribed medications is high.

Taylor told USA Today that the decision was based on "additional data" on recruits being made available to the Army, although he didn't elaborate on what this data is.

USA Today also uncovered data indicating the increase in acceptance of marginally-qualified applicants. Those problems are likely to reoccur among people with a history of those issues, said Elspeth Ritchie, retired Army psychiatrist, in USA Today.

Documents viewed by the paper put the onus on applicants to "provide a clear and meritorious case for why a waiver should be considered". Those with histories of self-mutilation require "a detailed statement from the applicant, medical records, evidence from an employer if the injury was job-related, photos submitted by the recruiter and a psychiatric evaluation and "clearance".

The Army has opened up recruitment to those with some mental health conditions, according to documents obtained by USA Today.

Mental health in the military has always been a point of contention, particularly for the Army, which for years have experienced more mental illness diagnoses than any other branch, according to Pentagon reports.

The Army did not note how many waivers had been issued since the policy was changed.

The Army's decision has raised concerns among mental health professionals.

The policy in and of itself is not necessarily a bad one, but its execution will be key. The Army met it by accepting recruits who performed poorly on aptitude tests, reports say.

USA Today reported in October that the Army had loosened its recruitment standards and offered attractive bonuses to new enlistees in an attempt to hit its recruitment goals. Recruits with such backgrounds will still have to receive waivers from the Army in order to be allowed in, and there's no assurance that any given recruit will be granted such a waiver. "These waivers are not considered lightly". In addition, waivers for marijuana use, illegal while in uniform, jumped from 191 in 2016 to 506 in 2017.

The Army has had trouble recruiting during strong economic times, contributing to a recent decline in enrollment. While in 2014, the Army paid $8.2 million in bonuses, the number skyrocketed to $424 in 2017.

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