Destigmatizing Mental Health Support for Individuals with a Security Clearance

By Chester Curtis, Directorate, Prevention, Resilience and ReadinessSeptember 28, 2023

Taking care of our people is a top priority. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin recently stated, “Mental health is health---period. We must do more, at every level, to end the stigma against getting help. We all need counsel, community, and connection. Reaching out is a sign of strength and resilience.” He went on to state “seeking help decreases the likelihood of psychological stress escalating into a more serious problem.”

However, despite assurances to the contrary, some Soldiers still fear seeking mental health services they may need for fear of jeopardizing their security clearance.

“Unfortunately, there are myths that still exist that prevent some Soldiers and spouses from seeking mental health support for fear it will affect their security clearance,” says Ms. Teane Smith, Senior Security Specialist, HQDA, DCS, G-2, Personnel Security Branch. “The fear of negative impacts on one’s career is still a barrier to help-seeking behavior for some Soldiers.”

One of the more pervasive myths is that “individuals cannot have a security clearance if they are diagnosed with a mental health disorder or prescribed medication for mental health issues," says Smith. “The fact is that any diagnosis or medication, in and of itself, is not a reason to deny or revoke a security clearance.”

Smith said additional information may be requested by adjudicators to better understand the course of treatment and mitigate any potential concerns.

“Successfully following a treatment plan is viewed positively and helps to mitigate security concerns,” says Smith.

Smith reiterates that “seeking professional care for mental health concerns will not jeopardize your security clearance, consistent with Executive Order 12968, ‘Access to Classified Information.’”

There are many free confidential resources available to help assist Soldiers who experience mental health issues. Servicemembers and their families can contact, a chaplain or to the Military/Veterans Crisis Line, just dial 988, then press 1. DoD Civilians may reach out to their Agency Employee Assistance Program at 1-800-222-0364 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK or text 838255.