Army lifts ban on recruits with history of some mental health issues: report

People with a history of self-mutilation, bipolar disorder, depression, and drug and alcohol abuse can now seek waivers to join the Army, USA Today reports. A ban was placed on mental health waivers in 2009 amid a surge of suicide among troops, but Army representatives say lifting the ban is now possible with better access to medical records.

In the past two years, the Army has been gradually lifting recruitment guidelines in order to reach higher goals of enlistment. To meet last year's goal of 69,000 new recruits, they accepted recruits with lower aptitude scores,  granted more waivers for marijuana use, and offered hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses. This year, the Army's goal is even higher. They to hope enlist 80,000 new recruits.

The Army's decision has raised concerns among mental health professionals. Elspeth Ritchie, a psychiatrist who retired from the Army as a colonel in 2010, told USA Today recruits with a history of mental illness for more likely to have relapses. Their condition can also cause disorder in a unit, especially in the case of suicide attempts.

"It is a red flag,” she told USA Today. “The question is, how much of a red flag is it?

The Army has not released a total number of waivers, but Ritchie believes lifting the ban is the Army's attempt to widen their pool of applicants. The ban was reportedly lifted without an announcement in August.