British Army Mulls Recruiting People With Autism, Mental Health Issues

To address its continuing recruitment crisis, the British Army is considering enlisting those with autism or a previous mental health diagnosis.

The service reportedly directed outsourcing giant Capita to formulate a plan to potentially hire those who would normally face a blanket ban in the British Army.

Under current rules, applicants who have autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or a history of depression are outright rejected.

But a report by The Telegraph said the army is pushing to reverse this policy, with plans to reassess its medical requirements by refining questions on ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, and mental health.

Aspiring soldiers with autism or ADHD account for more than 500 failed applications in the British Army each year.

Nearly 4,000 candidates were also turned away last year after having been found to have a history of psychiatric conditions.

‘Physically and Mentally Challenging’

Reports indicate that an estimated 1.2 million people in the UK have autism spectrum disorder, while 2.2 million have been diagnosed with ADHD.

These people may experience impulsivity, social difficulties, and differences in learning that prevent them from becoming a soldier.

The British Army previously said that joining the service can be challenging both physically and mentally.

However, former army head Lord Dannatt said it was right to revisit the medical criteria for aspiring soldiers.

“It makes quite a lot of sense, in terms of medical conditions and mental health,” he stressed. “We should accept a little bit more risk and if the risk turns bad, we can discharge them.”

‘Too Small for War’

The move to reconsider medical criteria for applicants comes as the number of people serving in the British Army continues to plummet.

The service reportedly missed its recruitment goal by 15 percent in the 12 months before March 2024.

It also saw a decline in strength last year, from 78,000 soldiers in 2022 to only 75,983 in 2023.

This shortfall, experienced by other branches in the British military, has caused General Patrick Sanders to conclude that the service is “too small” to survive an all-out war.

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