Very recently, America learned of the U.S. Army’s decision to permit recruits with severe mental health issues, such as depression, self-mutilation, and bipolar disorder to serve in the armed forces. According to USA Today, this decision was made in August 2017 and many Americans are highly displeased. Furthermore, controversy about placing automatic weapons in the hands of unstable people has quickly arisen. Others have noted the pitfalls of seeking quantity while neglecting quality.
Accepting unstable recruits who suffer from mental health issues places everyone at risk. The innate stressors of serving in the Army are often time enough to shake up a fit, able, mentally sound individual. How will these stressors impact someone with mental fragility or a proneness to various conditions? These are very real issues the Army recruit team ought to take into consideration.
By the Army’s own admission, their considerably relaxed standards are a result of looking to attract additional recruits into their ranks. However, this is not the first time they have allowed people into the military who are unfit. In 2016, when they Army wished to achieve a quota of 69,000 new soldiers, they took candidates who performed poorly on aptitude tests, issued many waivers for the use of marijuana, and provided excessive bonuses.
Army spokesperson, Lt. Col. Randy Taylor, provided additional insight into the reasons behind the mental health waivers:
“The decision was primarily due to the increased availability of medical records and other data which is now more readily available. These records allow Army officials to better document applicant medical histories.”
The military is not the best or appropriate place for those suffering from mental health problems like depression, bipolar disorder, etc. There are many risks involved with service, and those risks become even more serious to recruits who are not at peak levels of mental health to begin with. According to U.S. News, the suicide rate for service members between the ages of 20 and 24 is about two to four times the national average for everyday civilians. Furthermore, about 20% of homeless people in America were once active military service members. The countless risks and dangers associated with Army service, and the military overall, should only be given to the strongest and most capable people.
Preventing people with mental health issues from serving in the Army is not about loathing or mistreatment, and it’s the right decision for the people affected by these illnesses in the long run. While many people suffering from these ailments may have the best of intentions with their heart in the right place, allowing them to serve when they are mentally unfit ultimately does them - and the Army - a horrendous disservice.
Part of military service is readiness for war at virtually any time. Seeing one’s fellow servicemembers get injured, wounded, or even killed can be too much for the most battle-hardened person, let alone someone who suffers from pre-existing mental health issues. It could trigger one’s depression, bipolar disorder, or prompt self-harm. As uncomfortable as these factors are, they need to be discussed.
The Army is well aware of the risks that come with military service, and they have a responsibility not to object vulnerable recruits to situations they can’t handle. While the Army may very well require a greater quantity of fighters, opening the doors to people who lack the mental fitness and capabilities will not achieve the endgame that is ultimately desired. This short-term gain in personnel will inevitably be outweighed by subsequent issues and expenses.
The Army’s decision to lower their standards and accept recruits who don’t perform well on aptitude tests will ultimately backfire and blow up in their faces. We need to accept that these tests are in place for a reason. The aptitude tests greatly mirror circumstances that recruits will face in the Army if accepted. Failing these tests should serve as a huge red flag to recruiting agents.
In nearly every scenario and situation, quality is always better than quantity. Although the Army has already begun accepting unqualified candidates, perhaps they will reconsider. Hopefully, the reconsideration of this unwise decision will take place before too many people are adversely impacted as a result.