Military discharge due to depression (The process)

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Page last updated: 10/11/2022

Military discharge due to depression (The process)

In this article, we will discuss what depression military discharge is.

We will also discuss the policies surrounding depression military discharge, how to get a medical discharge for depression, and what you can do if you have been discharged for depression. 

Military discharge due to depression

Military discharge due to depression refers to medical discharge on groups of a military serviceman who has been diagnosed with serious mental health disorders like Major depressive disorder or clinical depression. 

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a leading publication used for diagnosis of mental disorders by mental health professionals, Major depressive disorder or depression is a serious mood disorder.

It is such a serious condition that it can also lead to errors in judgement and behavioural challenges that can render an individual unfit for working in the military and also can be a cause for concern as the person can be a harm to themselves and others as well. 

In the military, serious mental health disorders such as major depression, anxiety or schizophrenia are grounds for medical discharge or early retirement.

The criteria for discharge usually depend on the severity of the disorder, the impact the disorder has on the safety of the person and others, and receptiveness to treatment.

According to the Department of Defence, there are certain rules regarding a medical discharge for depression.

The eligible Criteria for Disability Discharge and Retirement for mental disorders like depression in very broad terms, is when the disorder is severe enough to:

  • Interfere significantly with performance of duties
  • Require continued and intensive psychiatric support
  • Possibly and seriously endanger the servicemember’s as well as other servicemember’s health or well-being
  • Is against the best interests of the government. 

Some of the various types of depression disorders that can lead to a discharge include:

Major Depressive Disorder

Major Depressive Disorder is a mood disorder and leads to a medical discharge for depression.

Depending on the disorder’s severity, a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder leads to a disability discharge or administrative discharge.

Persistent Depressive Disorder

Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD) was once called dysthymic disorder and will likely lead to a medical discharge for depression.

Atypical Depression 

Atypical Depression is often confused with Major Depressive Disorder but they are different disorders and the main difference being that in this type of depression that ranges from severe to mild, the person may experience the mood lifts during a positive event.

While it is difficult to say for sure, Atypical Depression is possibly disqualifying especially since it shares some common symptoms as Major Depression.

According to Operation Military Kids, Depressive disorders that might not lead to a discharge include:

  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD); related to the changing of the seasons.
  • Postpartum Depression because it remains treatable, however, if the symptoms are evident and persistent, it may lead to a medical evaluation to determine fitness for service.
  • Situational Depression, as there are branches to support service members during situational depression.

Depression symptoms also include extremely low mood and fatigue and is often accompanied by thoughts of worthlessness and hopelessness which can lead to suicidal ideation and even attempts. 

Depression related symptoms such as inability to focus, lack of energy, and hopelessness can impact a person’s ability to work and meet the demands of their daily lives. 

People with depression often struggle with low self esteem and self worth which can cause them to negatively assess themselves. They may fear rejection and abandonment from other people which may cause them to isolate themselves in a bid to protect themselves.

This social withdrawal can make it difficult for them to maintain social commitments and relationships as they might choose to push people away especially when they do not have the skills to communicate and manage their emotions and thoughts. 

While these are some of the ways depression impacts a person, the disorder itself can cause the quality of life of people who have it to drastically decrease and in extreme cases, if the disorder is left untreated, it can lead to suicide attempts and death. 

Military discharge due to depression (The process)

What are the policies surrounding depression and military discharge?

The eligible Criteria for Disability Discharge and Retirement for mental disorders like depression in very broad terms, is when the disorder is severe enough to:

  • Interfere significantly with performance of duties
  • Require continued and intensive psychiatric support
  • Possibly and seriously endanger the servicemember’s as well as other servicemember’s health or well-being
  • Is against the best interests of the government. 

According to the National Lawyers Guild Military Law Task Force, the controlling regulation is DoD Instruction 1332.18.

This Instruction is set out in Enclosure 3, Appendix 2, and provides very general standards for determining whether a certain medical condition render a servicemember unfit for military service:

 The instruction is as follows:

A Service member will be considered unfit when the evidence establishes that the member, due to disability, is unable to reasonably perform duties of his or her office, grade, rank, or rating, including those during a remaining period of Reserve obligation. (TNLG LTF)

A Service member may also be considered unfit when there is evidence, usually from a physician or psychiatrist under whom they are cared for, establishes that:

  • The Service member’s diagnosis of depression is a medical risk for the health, welfare or safety of the military member as well as that of other members
  • The Service member’s diagnosis of depression requires unreasonable requirements on the military to protect and care for the Service member who is diagnosed.

How to get a depression-related military discharge?

If you seek a discharge for depression under the Other Designated Physical and Mental Conditions Discharge, you can follow the steps provided by writers at Operation Military Kids:

  • The first step is to convince your commander that your discharge best suits the interest of your health and safety, that of your fellow service personnel, and the military’s interests.
  • Provide evidence of your condition from a psychiatrist who has evaluated your condition and has diagnosed you and the severity of your condition.

It has to be mentioned that If you are under the care of a civilian psychiatrist, you will likely need to see a military psychiatrist, as well.

When you see a military psychiatrist for assessment and diagnosis, there is no confidentiality that protects you so everything that happens between you and the psychiatrist will most likely be informed to the higher ups. 

  • You should also provide documentation that proves how your condition impacts other parts of your life. This can be done by procuring statements from your religious leaders, family members, or other community members.
  • When you speak to your commander, make sure that you stick to facts and that you speak openly without minimising the impact of your condition in your life and health. 
  • After this, your commanding officer has full discretion regarding supporting your request for a discharge or not, as well as under what to discharge you with- disability, medical, or administrative. 
  • If your case is for a potential disability discharge, you will be recommended to an evaluation to determine the degree of disability by a medical officer.
  • You must be prepared as there will likely be numerous trips to the doctor for various kinds of paperwork and documentation and after you have submitted your paperwork, your case will be sent to the Medical Evaluation Board to determine the next steps of your discharge.

What to do if you have been discharged for depression?

If you have depression and you have been discharge, here are a few things that one can do to seek help:

Reach out

Here are a few resources form the NHS that you can make use of if you are suicidal, depressed, or engageing in self harm. 

  • Call 116 123 to talk to Samaritans, or email: jo@samaritans.org for a reply within 24 hours
  • Text “SHOUT” to 85258 to contact the Shout Crisis Text Line, or text “YM” if you’re under 19
  • If you’re under 19, you can also call 0800 1111 to talk to Childline. The number will not appear on your phone bill.
  • Self Injury Support webchat (for women and girls) is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 7pm to 9.30pm
  • CALM webchat (for men) is open from 5pm to midnight every day

You can also reach out to your local medical service providers or a mental health service provider. 

If you are hesitant about reaching out for help, speak to a trusted friend or adult about what you are going through.

Seek professional help

Seek out professional help when these thoughts don’t improve after a week or two even after you have tried to manage them alone. 

It is also imperative that you seek out help when the intensity of these thoughts and feelings disrupt your ability to function and meet the demands of your daily life. 

When loneliness turns to thoughts and feelings of hopelessness it can aggravate your suicidal ideation, this is a major symptom of depression. So seeking out professional help becomes necessary. 

Join a support group

Another thing you can do for yourself is to join a support group of people struggling with depression in the military so that you can experience emotional support first hand within these communities and over time learn how to manage your challenges by learning from each other. 

By joining a group that is open, empathetic, and growing towards healing, you and your experiences can be an excellent sense of support to someone else who is also in their early part of their journey. 

Conclusion

In this article we have discussed what depression military discharge is.

We also discussed the policies surrounding depression, military discharge, how to get a medical discharge for depression, and what you can do if you have been discharged for depression. 

FAQ related to depression military discharge

Who should you talk to for discharge for depression?

You should talk to your commanding officer and this should be your first step- to convince your commander that your discharge best suits the interest of your health and safety, that of your fellow service personnel, and the military’s interests.

What disorders are grounds for discharge?

In the military, serious mental health disorders such as major depression, anxiety or schizophrenia are grounds for medical discharge or early retirement.

Why do mental disorders lead to military discharge?

In the military, serious mental health disorders such as major depression, anxiety or schizophrenia are grounds for medical discharge or early retirement. 

The reason why servicemen and women are discharged is because these are serious conditions that can also lead to errors in judgement and behavioural challenges. 

Such can render an individual unfit for working in the military and also can be a cause for concern as the person can be a harm to themselves and others as well. 

Are military psychological assessments confidential?

When you see a military psychiatrist for assessment and diagnosis, there is no confidentiality that protects you so everything that happens between you and the psychiatrist will most likely be informed to the higher ups.