Security clearance questions on mental health status - be careful

1 Comment | Posted

Words are so important, never more so than when considering mental health status. You likely have heard by now that the Obama administration is thinking about rewording the standard mental-health question on security clearance applications. Instead of the current question about whether or not someone has received  professional treatment or hospitalization for “an emotional or mental health condition,” those seeking or renewing clearance instead would be asked the proposed new question - if “you had a mental health condition that would cause an objective observer to have concern about your judgment, reliability, or trustworthiness in relation to your work?” The proposed form goes on to add that “Evidence of such a condition could include exhibiting behavior that was emotionally unstable, irresponsible, dysfunctional, violent, paranoid, or bizarre; receiving an opinion by a duly qualified mental health professional that you had a condition that might impair judgment, reliability, or trustworthiness; or failing to follow treatment advice related to a diagnosed emotional, mental, or personality condition (e.g., failure to take prescribed medication). These examples are merely illustrative. Merely consulting a mental health professional is not, standing alone, evidence of such a condition.”

Oh man, personally, this is the kind of long, multi-stemmed question that killed me on the SAT's. We are talking about a whole lot more than 50 shades of grey with a question like this. And just think of the myriad of interpretations that could be garnered by the people reviewing the application. This feels like quicksand folks.

Let us know what you think in the comment section below.

Comments

  1. George Patrin, MD's avatar
    George Patrin, MD
    | Permalink
    Are they kidding?! "Have you (ever) had a mental health condition that would cause an objective observer to have concern about your judgment, reliability, or trustworthiness in relation to your work?” If they DO have such a "mental health condition" they won't be answering this in the affirmative...they don't realize they have the condition in the first place! And those who do NOT have a "mental health condition" are certainly not going to answer "yes" even though they know others "have (had) concern about (their) judgment, reliability, or trustworthiness in relation to work.”
    Am I missing something here, folks?

    This, frankly, is the same kind of thinking resulting in the appalling suicide rate in this country. We ask people who come to us for help one last time, whether in a clinic or on the crisis line, looking for respect and compassion after a series of frustrations trying to get help, to say "Yes, I have the means to kill myself, of course, that's why I called," knowing they will be locked up somewhere with questions asked later. Instead, they say "No" and carry on when we don't respond in a personal and respectful way.
    1. Leave a Comment