When applying for security clearance, you will be presented with a series of questions concerning your psychological and emotional health. If you have had a mental health condition in the past or are currently seeing a mental health professional, you might be wary about including that information on your application.
Regardless of your apprehension, it is essential to provide honest answers on all sections of the Standard Form (SF) 86. Mental health conditions are not automatic security clearance disqualifiers. The agency will consider mitigating factors and areas of concern when evaluating your qualifications. Misrepresenting or falsifying information about your mental health is more likely to adversely affect your eligibility for security clearance than the underlying condition itself.
Completing the Psychological and Emotional Health Section of the SF86
As you begin the process of applying for security clearance, you will be reminded on the SF86 that all questions must be answered truthfully and completely. Failing to be honest in your responses can result in adverse actions.
Section 21 of the SF 86 concerns your psychological and emotional health.
It contains questions about whether:
- A court or administrative agency has declared you mentally incompetent
- A court or administrative agency has recommended you to a mental health professional
- You were hospitalized for a mental health condition
- You have been diagnosed with a mental health condition affecting your judgment, reliability, or trustworthiness
- You are in treatment for a mental health disorder
Answering yes to these questions won’t necessarily result in your application being denied or your current clearance being revoked. Instead, it may cause investigators to conduct a more in-depth review of your mental health history.
- Speak to your most recent mental health professional,
- Order a mental health evaluation, and/or
- Examine your medical records.
Considerations When Evaluating Mental Health Conditions
The decision to approve or reject your security clearance application is not based solely on whether you have experienced or are experiencing mental health symptoms or have seen or are seeing a mental health professional. Various factors are considered to decide whether your condition impacts your judgment, reliability, and trustworthiness.
To determine how your mental health affects these three factors, investigators will look at aggravating and mitigating factors.
Aggravating factors include, but are not limited to:
- Conditions causing irresponsible or paranoid behavior
- Behavior that could place yourself or others at risk
- Instances of involuntary hospitalization
- Mental health issues coupled with substance abuse
- Medical professional’s opinion about the effects of the condition on judgment, reliability, and trustworthiness
- Not adhering to recommended medical treatments
- Recurring mental health condition that is not responding to treatment
Mitigating factors include, but are not limited to:
- Mental health condition that can be managed with treatment
- Voluntarily entering a treatment program
- Medical professional’s opinion that the condition is being managed
- Mental health condition arose from a temporary situation, such as a loved one’s death
- Past mental health condition is no longer an issue
Consult with an Attorney
Having a current or prior mental health condition should not discourage you from pursuing a position requiring security clearance. The agency will consider the seriousness of the issue, relevance to the duties of the position, and impact on your character when deciding how to move forward with your application. Certain factors can mitigate concerns that might arise. For example, voluntarily participating in a mental health program can be seen as a positive step in managing your condition and speak to your integrity.
At Claery & Hammond, LLP, we help individuals through the national security clearance application process. For assistance, please contact us at (877) 362-3176.