BOISE - People with a history of mental health conditions like depression and bipolar disorder can now seek waivers to join the Army under an unannounced policy enacted in August.
The decision to open Army recruiting to people with those conditions was made to meet the demanding goal of recruiting 80,000 new soldiers through 2018.
In order to meet last year's goal of 69,000 soldiers, the Army lowered standards as well. The Army accepted more recruits who did poorly on aptitude tests and they also increased the number of waivers granted for marijuana use.
Since this announcement came to light there have been psychiatrists speaking out about the potential dangers of expanding the waivers for mental health conditions - that can potentially resurface while in the Army.
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.
"I think that by limiting people being able to participate in jobs like the military service or other jobs because they sought mental health problems, that limits people from seeking it when they need it," said Edwards. "Unfortunately what happens is we still have people in those jobs which we would be concerned about but they're not treated which is far worse than if someone were to get treated for their mental health."
Edwards says she can understand the other side of it.
"There's so many gradations of mental illness," Edwards said. "Somebody who had a depression once two years ago that was treated with a simple medication shouldn't be excluded from service. If there is someone with a significant violent past or somebody that is so incapacitated in their illness that they can't make good decisions about things they should be excluded from service of course," Edwards said.
She also says this should be a case-by-case situation and it will be important for psychiatrists to be involved in the process so they can make the safest decisions possible.
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