Many defense professionals fear that seeking professional assistance for a mental health concern could negatively impact their careers or harm their ability to gain or maintain a security clearance. Often, this is based on a long-standing stigma related to mental health conditions, as well as specific questions many encounter when attempting to get a security clearance.

Fortunately, the Department of Defense (DoD) is taking significant strides to prioritize the mental health of its personnel. However, even with a progressive shift, there remains a persistent web of myths surrounding the impact of mental health care on security clearances. If you’re concerned that seeking mental health care could harm your defense career, here’s what you need to know.

DoD’s Proactive Mental Health Approach

The DoD has long touted the importance of mental health care for defense professionals and military members. Recently, the DoD went further than it had before, releasing DoD Instruction 6490.08. In the instruction, the DoD aims to focus on dispelling the stigma surrounding seeking mental health care while simultaneously striving to ensure confidentiality (aside from in exigent circumstances) for those who require professional mental health support.

Security Clearance Myths Debunked

One major point of concern for defense professionals is that receiving mental health care would hinder their ability to gain or maintain a security clearance. Partially, that was due to questions featured on the SF-86 form, especially question 21, which directly asks if a person has received any kind of treatment for a mental health condition within the last seven years.

Currently, the SF-86 form is being updated to address problematic questions. Additionally, a shift in mentality is treating the seeking of mental health care as a sign of strength.

Finally, it’s critical to note that being disqualified for a psychological condition is incredibly rare. In about the last ten years, such a denial or revocation has only occurred a few dozen times. Additionally, seeking mental health care alone has never led to a revocation or denial.

Public Perception vs. Reality

Public perception often lags behind the realities of policy and practice, especially regarding sensitive issues like mental health in the defense sector. The outdated belief that mental health issues are incompatible with DoD and military service or security clearances still persists among the general public and even within military communities.

Fortunately, efforts are being made to bridge this gap through education, open dialogue, and transparent policies that highlight the DoD’s inclusive stance on mental health. By aligning public perception with the reality of the DoD’s supportive and progressive policies, the hope is to foster an environment where seeking help is not only accepted but encouraged.

Security Clearance and Psychological Conditions

When it comes to security clearances, the DoD employs a nuanced approach to evaluating psychological conditions. The focus is on the specific condition’s impact on an individual’s ability to perform their duties and safeguard national security and not the presence of a condition itself.

Factors such as the nature, duration, and severity of the condition, along with the effectiveness of treatment and the individual’s compliance with treatment plans, are carefully considered. Ultimately, this personalized approach to assessment ensures that decisions are made based on concrete evidence of an individual’s capabilities rather than on generalized assumptions or stigma related to mental health.

If you’re looking for a new defense sector job, the Staffing Resource Group can help. Apply Today and SuRGe your career forward.

Ready to Get to Work?