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Bipolar Disorder Community
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Avatar universal

Security clearance and mental illness

I was diagnosed with Bipolar II almost a year ago and it put me through several months of hell.  Thankfully I finaly got my meds adjusted and I have been fine since August.  I have gone back to school to get my bachelors degree and I was recently offered an internship with a government agency.  Getting a job with this agency is one of the reasons I wanted to go to college in the first place.  It is a great oportunity, but it requires a security clearance and a background check.  I had to sign a release letting investigators talk to my mental health providers to see if my illness might cause me to be "irresponsible" or to have "poor judgement."  It is what I call legal descrimination.   I have heard that it is extremely hard, if not imposible to get a security clearance if you have a mental illness, even if it is perfectly treatable.  It is realy bothering me and I just don't want to be disapointed if they say "sorry you can't have this job because of your mental illness."  I have a perfect record, no crime, no drug use, my employers have always loved me, and I have a 4.0 gpa.  I am so stressed that an illness that I didn't ask for is going to keep me from the future I want, even though I am perfectly qualified.  I stayed in the hospital for a week last year because a lady who was helping me with symptom management insisted they could help me, even though I wasn't suicidal or anything.  I went because I just wanted help.  Now I am worried the government will see this info and use it against me.  I want to move on with my life and I feel like people wont let me.  I cant stop worrying about how unfair it all is.  Why am I going to college if I can't even get a good job because I'm a "mental defective"?  I also thought about law school, but then I found out that mental illness can keep you from becoming a lawer as well.  Has anyone else had problems realizing their dreams because of their mental illness?
16 Responses
Avatar universal
Nikki2226:  I don't know about Security Clearances or the Legal Profession, but I do know about being BiPolar. About how unbelievably hard it is to admitt you have a problem and do something about it.  About what it takes to get the strength to either get out of bed, or down off the ceiling, to get help.  About what it's like to give up that glorious high and settle for the grey, boring, empty, space that is now "you".  About the inner struggle there is to accept that you'll be on meds the rest of your life and that the word "crazy" has a whole new meaning to it.  About the turmoil inside trying to get those closest to you to "get it".  Right now, you should be so PROUD of yourself.  Look at what you have accomplished!  4.0gpa!  Graduation!  Hospitalization to get better!  Admitting you needed help and doing so!  My goodness!  Those are achievements that some of us BoPolars take 10 - 20 years to overcome, and it sounds like you did it in a whole lot less!  I know you're worried right now and doing some negative self talk, but take a few minutes to pat yourself on the back!  Your are amazing.  I'm so proud of what you've achieved and I hope you are too!  Go to your Mood Tracker and mark today as a good day!  You've succeeded at more than many BiPolars ever do in a lifetime, and you have lots more ahead of you!  Three chears and Aloha from Hawaii!     Ohanamama
607502 tn?1288251140
I think you are stressing yourself here for no reason.

Yes there are some things we cannot do.  We cannot join the military, we cannot be police officers in most places and yes it can indeed stop us getting a security clearance or cause us to lose one (this happened to a person I know if  in AU who used to work for a defence contractor here and lost his Top Secret after a breakdown and was asssesed as a judgement risk) but thats the reality of mental illness sad to say.

You can call it anything you like but no its not legal discrimination to disqualify on the grounds that someone is physically or mentally incapable of performing a job - In this case im sorry but Bipolar's ARE at risk for impaired judgement, risk taking behaviours and other things which would concern a security clearance agency.  That does not mean you will not get it but it does make it hard.

You should be aware that a security clearance is a very serious thing to get - a positive vetting here in AU for any of the agencies means a very deep and personal dive into your background and you can get dusqualified on just about any reason - sexual history is one, spending, gambling, drinking, drugs etc etc etc.  These are serious things.

Now first things first here's my question.  Do you have a therapist to sit down and talk this through with - this is the sort of place where you need help to stop yourself sliding down - when I see statements about life being unfair I worry because life is neither fair or unfair it just is.

There is no guarantee you will not get this job and I am sure its not the only job out there, yes this ***** and I know that but this is going to happen sometimes just like our episodes will and we have to learn we are strong enough to survive.
Avatar universal
Ohanamama thank you soooo much for your encouraging words.  

Monkeyc, thanks for your input.  

  I understand why a security clearance is so important and hard to get.  I already work for a state representative with the same level of risk, they just didn't require an official security clearance. The thing I hope they realize is that while bipolars can be a risk, everyone is different and has different symptoms, experiences, and levels of imparement.  Abraham Lincoln was severly mentaly ill and was put on constant suicide watch by his friends at one point, yet he made history.  There is a reason why we build him monuments and put his face on our money in the U.S.  I hope they see me as a whole person and not as someone who has a label.  A person with cancer may have good and bad days that cause them to be unreliable.  They also might make poor judgements because they are in pain and can't concentrate as well as they normaly do.  But whether or not you have cancer is not a question they agency asks.  Anyone is a risk, for any job, even healthy people.  If my illness is well controlled and I stay on my treatment plan, I will be able to do the job.  I know I will have problems, but I feel prepared to handle them and I know how and when to get help.  I refuse to lower my expetations of myself until it is impossible to do what I am trying to do.  I know a lot of people have very severe symptoms and are unable to work.  That might be me someday. But I think the best thing for us to do is live to our fullest potential, whether that means getting up and going to the grocery store, or leading a nation through civil war.    

403156 tn?1290153618
Nikki, you are right on. I couldn't agree with you more. You are very strong and determined. I wish I could say that I had a 4.0 GPA! Good luck with your job!
607502 tn?1288251140
Tehy do but they cannot give people security clearances based on that - the reality is our behaviour is by definition unpredictable.

I have a very responsible full time job which pays very well, a wife, supportive family and friends and 2 weeks ago found myself in hospital with suicidal ideation.  I have BP2 and carry on a very normal life on medication but still that happened to me and In terms of many of our members Im pretty sane.

This is why there are some risks security people wont take - they see absolutes and thats that and as someone who works in IT security thats the only way to do it - a risk is a risk and mitigation is all you have - I would not give a security clearance to a Bipolar either.  

Every person is not different.  We tell ourselves that to make ourselves feel better and a little study can show you that while we are different in our behaviours the overall course of BP is the same for all patients - we will all go through the same episodes and have the same issues to a more or less severe level.  

Bringing Lincoln to this (bizzare and unrelated as it is) confuses the subject witout solving things.

I agree with living life to our fullest potential and I admire your achievement but there is a reality and its this - there are some things Bipolar's cannot do.  Its that simple and there is little use beating yourself or other people up over it because reality does not change no matter how much we might try.

Apply for the position, go through the result positive or negative and accept the decision and move on with your life - do not let one thing destroy you.
574118 tn?1305138884
There is no need to discourage him more. Yet your input is appreciated because you wanted to put the facts bluntly in front of him.

Meanwhile Nikki i feel you should be very proud of yourself for your achievements and boy you are extremely rare indeed. But i don't know the reason of your mail. If it is to tell us that life is unfair, it is unfortunately, or is it that you want us to support you psychologically only or you are enquiring that whether you can really pass the test or there anything you can do next. Sure unless they do some blood tests - in case some meds show - they will never never discover anything wrong with you and especially you from the way you wrote your letter. But if they go digging for information in your past like detectives do, then possibly they can come up with something. A good advice monkeyc said is to consult your therapist if you have one and ask him what is the next step to do.

I thought living in my country was bad because i don't have enough medical care like you do, but now i feel very lucky because this new job i took lately the HR person asked me for many transcripts, certificates, etc.. Because i know i'm bipolar so i was concerned inside me and asked him do i need a medical certificate. he said no you look fine to me. Glad me. I'm only worried now because there will be some blood tests once in a year. I don't know which meds can show or the liver enzymes high, perhaps it's the benzo only which will show. [i don't like to be off-point here, but does anybody know about blood tests]

So i would assume as life can be unfair to us, you should embark anyway on your trial to apply for the job and leave the rest for God to help. You have done what you can. one can't tell what is the outcome anyway until you go through it. and really i wish you good luck from my heart. You deserve every success and you are up to any job.  
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