Members of the military may be referred to a mental health professional as part of an evaluation for discharge. For many servicemembers, this may be the first time they have visited a mental health professional or been asked direct questions about personal matters. It helps to know what to expect at the interview and to be prepared to talk about conditions and feelings which people often hide. Members should share personal thoughts and feelings and also be honest.
There are some things that should not be volunteered to a mental health professional:
- Anything Illegal: There is no confidentiality with a military psychiatrist and a civilian psychiatrist may decide that an illegal act should be included in the report.
- Homosexual acts.
- Preservice offenses, drug use, illegal acts or psychiatric care that are not in a member’s enlistment record and could result in processing for fraudulent enlistment.
Members should share their feelings, rather than simply list their complaints. The member can talk about why military service is difficult for them rather than why they want to get out. Emphasize the problem and how it interferes with performance of duties, not a desire for discharge. A mental health evaluator needs to know the member’s feelings, not logical explanations or psychiatric language.
Mental health tests can seem strange. Members should answer all questions and be as cooperative as possible. If there is a particular problem a member is having, they should be prepared to talk about it even if the interviewer does not ask specific questions about it.
Mental health professionals have been known to test patients. They may say, “This doesn’t sound serious”, or, “I think youre faking”. If this happens, the member can keep telling the interviewer about the problem and why they are serious. The member should not walk out. The psychiatrist may ask point-blank about information that might be incriminating (for example, “Do you use drugs?”). Talk to a counselor in advance about how to respond to such questions.
Sometimes the psychiatrist will ask a member what they want, or if they want out. A member might say they do not know what alternative there is to a discharge, since they can not go on the way they are. Make it clear that the problems are really bothersome and are the reason a discharge is appropriate.