Health Care

Army lifts ban on recruits with history of some mental health issues

Army lifts ban on recruits with history of some mental health issues

A military policy organization has decried the U.S. Army's decision to make it easier to issue recruit waivers for self-mutilation and other serious mental health issues.

The statement, however, didn't address whether the Army granted waivers to individuals who had practiced self-mutilation, such as slashing the skin with sharp instruments - a behavior that can signal deeper mental health issues, according to USA Today.

"With the additional data available, Army officials can now consider applicants as a whole person, allowing a series of Army leaders and medical professionals to review the case fully to assess the applicant's physical limitations or medical conditions and their possible impact upon the applicant's ability to complete training and finish an Army career", Army Lt. Col.

To meet last year's goal of recruiting 69,000, the Army accepted more recruits who fared poorly on aptitude tests, increased the number of waivers granted for marijuana use, and offered hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses, USA Today reported. Such waivers once had to be approved at the Army's headquarters level but can now be considered by U.S. Army Recruiting Command or by state adjutants general for those wishing to join the National Guard, the general said.

"We're not prepared to close the door on such individuals who are otherwise medically, mentally and physically qualified for military service", he said.

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If the committee does not get answers on the issue, McCain said, "we stop confirming people for jobs". The Army issued the ban on waivers in 2009 amid an epidemic of suicides among troops.

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.

Worse still, mental health problems could present themselves at inopportune times, such as during a combat deployment, she said.

USA Today reports the policy has gone unannounced and was enacted in August. "Why take people in the Army who are already vulnerable to conditions we know people who are perfectly healthy are susceptible to in combat situations?"

Dr. Amy Edwards, a Psychiatrist at North End Psychiatry & Associates, says anything that reduces the stigma surrounding mental health issues and seeking treatment is a good thing. The recruiting officials said they have not been instructed to seek less-than-stellar candidates for the Army. But people who were waived for ADHD did just fine.