DEC 21, 2017 7:20 AM PST

Army Will Allow Recruits With Some Mental Illnesses to Enlist


In 2009, the United States Army banned from enlistment any recruit with a history of mental illness. Alarming rates of suicide among service members drove the ban, but it's now being lifted. Anyone with a history of self-harm, depression, bipolar disorder or drug and alcohol abuse can now apply for a medical waiver when enlisting in the Army. A waiver is given for some medical conditions that might otherwise be a disqualifying condition. In the past, they were given for medical issues like childhood asthma, injuries or other minor medical concerns. The move by the Army to accept recruits who have had mental health issues is one that is getting some notice by some experts.

Part of it is access to records. With medical records being maintained electronically, Army medical professionals can now get more detailed information on a mental health issue that a recruit may have had in the past. An Army spokesperson has said that it allows the military to evaluate a candidate for service as "a whole person" and not just someone who has had a mental health problem. Not everyone agrees that it's a good idea, but for now, the Army will be offering recruits the option to apply for a waiver of any past mental health concerns. No other branches of the military have followed suit yet.
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