Pentagon Encourages Treatment With "Don't Ask" Policy
> 5/1/2008 1:06:22 PM

A survey released this week by the American Psychiatric Association revealed that approximately three-fifths of soldiers thought that seeking mental health treatment could damage their careers. While the Pentagon claimed that they had no reason to worry, their fear had some substantiation in a question on the Standard Form 86, Questionnaire for National Security Positions. That notorious question asks applicants to disclose mental health treatment received in the past seven years. Officials claim that less than one percent of clearance denials were from treatment evidence alone, but a review of transcripts from security clearance hearings shows that therapy discolsures were often the focus of doubts about an applicants suitability. Some disclosures wre followed up on to the point of interrogating therapists all the way back from active duty to adolescence. We have reported on this problem for a long time, but it looks like the Pentagon is finally taking concrete steps towards the solution.

The Defense Department announced today that the dreaded therapy question will be made less stringent. Previously, the only loopholes for mandatory disclosure were marriage and grief counseling, but now a much longer list of therapies will exempted and, perhaps most importantly, soldiers will not have to disclose therapy that had any relation with combat experiences. While government agencies are often slow to act, and the current Standard Form 86 will be used until all printed copies are exhausted, practical changes have already been swiftly enacted. Effective immediately, applicants will receive a slip with the amended question, as well as a whole packet explaining the change and the many treatment options available to them without risk of stigmatization.

Military culture prizes resilience and strength, pushing many suffering soldiers to cover up their mental wounds. The press release cites Dr. Casscells, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, who explains that "people are afraid they are going to lose friends. They’re afraid they’re gong to lose their chance at promotion." While changing peer perception is a long-term project that will take determined effort, the higher-ups can quickly dispel fears that they will judge people for seeking help by taking initiatives like the one announced today.

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