Is a mental health diagnosis still a stigma for combat veterans seeking careers in civilian life?

by | Mar 5, 2012

I wrote in my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, about the shock of being told in my last interview with General Telephone & Telegraph (GTE) in 1965 that they could not hire me because of a “note” on my DD214.  I learned the note showed a diagnosis of a mental disorder as the reason for my early Honorable separation from the US Navy.  I was later hired by the Western Union Telegraph Company, and the rest his history.   GTE was the loser on this one…

In the above link Dr. Peter Breggin discusses the hazards of mental disorder diagnosis.  Stigma is a big one.  Why would GTE at the time in 1965 not hire someone fresh out of the Navy with an honorable discharge and all the excellent training in radio communications and electronics, including experience in a communications center in Pearl Harbor?  It was certainly confusing to me and disconcerting to say the least.  I survived, however!  And in great style, going on to a highly successful career in the information technology industry and finishing my college education along the way.

A mental disorder diagnosis is still a stigma!  Too much is said about PTSD rather than the challenges of life after war for combat veterans and loved ones.  We need to change the conversation.  I have been reading and hearing more about this lately, and represent an example of a veteran who experienced the mental health stigma very early in my life and career.  Those who are responsible for hiring and in HR organizations in all companies should take note and try to be objective about hiring practices.  You may lose some hot talent like me along the way and the competition wins by being more perceptive and resourceful.  Something to think about…

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

About the author

Steve Sparks is a retired information technology sales and marketing executive with over 35 years of industry experience, including a Bachelors’ in Management from St. Mary’s College. His creative outlet is as a non-fiction author, writing about his roots as a post-WWII US Navy military child growing up in the 1950s-1960s.
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