Your Clearance and Your Mental Health – Don’t Let the Former Interrupt You from Addressing the Latter

It’s no secret that a clearance is required for a large number of jobs working in or around the US Military. Information is often sensitive and, as the Manning and Snowden cases show when the system fails it can fail hard. The single most important aspect of maintaining a clearance is honesty. This means having to tell an investigator about any counseling or mental health treatments you may be receiving. During my time in federal service, I saw both soldiers and civilians neglect their mental health for fear of it impacting their ability to maintain clearance. The truth is, taking care of your mental health and being honest with your investigators is the best way to keep a clearance, not risk it.

For me, it was 2014, and I was handling my first Belgian winter. Belgium, an otherwise wonderful country, is dark, rainy, and cold for half the year. Coming from sunny South Florida and Texas, I was not prepared for just how much climate can impact your mood. I was starting to suffer from depression, and I was faced with the above dilemma; if I start seeing behavioral health, I might lose my clearance. This idea was even reinforced by some of the others in my office, saying that it’s just ‘something you don’t do.’ Turns out that wasn’t even close to the case, but at the time it became a spiral where I felt trapped having to choose between my job and my sanity.

Finally, thanks to a supportive command and peer group, I wound up making an appointment. Some blood work and some prescriptions later, it turns out that I was suffering from abysmally low Vitamin D levels. It took care of my worries until my reinvestigation about a year later. I had continued counseling during that time for other issues, and I was once again worried about the clearance. This was during the aftermath of the OPM breach, which meant I wasn’t sure if the delays were because of that or because of my admission of my mental health treatment.

In the end, it turned out to be a lot of worry over nothing. Everything resolved itself and the agent doing the investigation assured me that it’s more about being honest than seeing a therapist. Looking back, I never saw anyone lose a clearance because they saw mental health providers. What I have seen are things like DUIs, drug use, arrests, and other issues affect a clearance. In many cases, these are events that could have been solved ‘left of the bang’ with attention and therapy, but were instead contained until they could no longer hide it.

If you have any reason, any reason at all, to see behavioral health or a therapist, then you should do so, clearance or not. Proper management of your mental health is just like the management of your physical health, it requires work and sometimes third-party support to maintain. Our jobs are too important to risk letting a mental health issue interfere with them, and the system knows that. If you take care of yourself first, your clearance will take care of itself.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Garrett Ferrara

Garrett is a writer, perpetual student, and seven-year Army veteran. Currently studying Anthropology and Writing & Rhetoric at the University of Central Florida, he's hoping to stretch the G.I. Bill all the way to a PhD. Bilbo Baggins is his favorite literary character; a character that traveled, fought battles, and finally settled into a simple life. He's looking forward to squaring away that last phase.
Garrett Ferrara

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