In a shocking and contentious move, the US military has lifted a long-standing ban on accepting applicants who have a history of mental illness. Of course, this does not apply to all mental problems, but it is immensely worrying nonetheless.
People with a history of “self-mutilation,” bipolar disorder, depression and drug and alcohol abuse can now apply to join the military under a waiver scheme it was announced yesterday
Lt. Col. Randy Taylor tried to explain the decision:
“The decision was primarily due to the increased availability of medical records and other data which is now more readily available,” Taylor’s statement to USA TODAY said. “These records allow Army officials to better document applicant medical histories.”.
But there are three major problems here:
- Medical records do not show everything. There are many more cases of tempted suicide and self-harm than are reported to the authorities. If they accept an application from someone who has one instance of self-harm, this doesn’t mean that they have not done it on multiple occasions, it just means they haven’t reported it.
- The suicide rate among soldiers is ridiculously high. This comes from a mix of trauma, stress and the difficulties in moving back into civilian life. If someone is already emotionally damaged, this is just asking for trouble.
- We already know what the result is of letting people join the military with previous emotional and mental health issues. Bowe Bergdahl. He was on record as having emotional issues before he joined the military, yet was put in a position of major stress. Look what happened.