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Questions about 'Health Status Review'

Hi Everybody,

I posted here way way back about Medical Clearance concerns.

Well, I FINALLY got around to finishing my application and submitting it online. Unfortunately, I didn't realize that the "Health Status Review" (HSR) was part of the initial application. I thought all of that came later, with the medical clearance and application toolkit and whatnot... so I don't think I'm finished with it just quite yet.

Anyway, I really want to get this last form in, but I have a few questions and concerns...
How important/offical is the HSR?

It's a fairly long form with lots of very straight forward questions. Unfortunately, I don't know the answer to them all. For some questions it's a matter of searching for dates of diagnosis/starting medication. For other questions, however, I don't know what the right answer is, or what counts. I want to be as honest and straightforward as possible, and I certainly don't want to lie and disqualify myself, but I certainly do not want to provide unnecessary information that would hurt me in the application process. Specificaly...

  1. Section 8, item 78 "Have you ever had substance abuse or alcohol abuse counseling (other than awareness counseling or classes related to traffic citations?" (YES/NO)...
    • I was suspended in for being 'intoxicated' (caffeine pills) as a sophomore in high school (2001) and was subsequently evaluated and admitted to an teen outpatient substance abuse counseling program to reduce my punishment/suspension. Because the program was through a private hospital (not through my school), I believe it is a part of my medical records... However, because it was so long ago and for such a minor offense, I don't think it has any real bearing on my eligibility/suitability for the PC today.
      • So... what is the correct answer? I suppose it is technically YES, but it was over 5 years ago, I was a juvenile, and I really didn't have much of a substance abuse problem then, and I certainly do not have one now.
  2. Section 8, item 81: "Have you ever tried to harm yourself or attempted suicide?" (YES/NO)
    • Again, this is really embarrassing, old teenage angst crap... I used to cut/self-mutilate when I was 14 years old (this was a very short lived experiment, but I got caught and it was reported to my high school social workers => psychologists, etc.) So I suppose that counts as "trying to harm myself"... A few months later I got into a fight with a friend, locked myself in a bathroom and tried to swallow a bunch of my anti-depressant pills... (which were obviously quite ineffective at treating my depression!).. I didn't even manage to swallow any of them. However, my friend reported the incident at school and I believe it was deemed a "suicide attempt". I never really seriously intended to kill myself that day. I suppose it was just a cry for help, or whatever.
      • I'm wondering if these instances qualify as "trying to harm myself or attempt suicide"... they were so long ago. So stupid and the result of meaningless drama. I got over it all and am thoroughly embarrassed by the fact that it happened at all. My immediate reaction/answer to the question was "No, of course not" ... but then I remembered all of the crap that I just mentioned. I'm not sure what my medical records would say about those instances... but I would really REALLY like to keep it private! Especially since I don't think it even really QUALIFIES...

  3. NEED CLARIFICATION: Section 8, Item 85: "Do you have or have you ever had any other mental health condition not listed in Items 76 - 84? (YES/NO)"
    • I have been officially diagnosed with:
      • Clinical Depression
      • ADHD (Item #83)
      • Anxiety (I THINK I have an official diagnosis... although it might just be considered a symptom of my depression)
    • My question is... they don't specifically LIST or MENTION "Clinical Depression" or "Anxiety" by name, but the conditions are kinda implied. Should I just say "YES, I have a mental health condition not listed in Items 76-84"?

So, having just explained all that... it probably sounds like I'm crazy and unstable... but honestly, that was just a phase I went through in adolescence. I am still being treated (medication) for depression and anxiety, but have been doing very well for several years. I don't have any problems with drug or alcohol abuse, and I certainly have no inclination to harm myself or commit suicide. I've spent a lot of time thinking about my history of depression and how it would affect me as an isolated Peace Corps volunteer, and I've come to the conclusion (along with my psychiatrist) that I have come a long way and am strong enough to take on the challenge and thrive as a volunteer.

One more question: Can I modify/edit any of my answers later on? I am not trying to decieve the Peace Corps or lie about my medical history/conditions... I've heard horror stories about people being medically separated for failing to disclose information in their medical clearance or making mistakes. I want to avoid that at all costs.

I'd really appreciate any help, answers, or advice you guys can give me. I want to get this form in as soon as possible. I'm going to call my regional office tomorrow to check up on some other stuff regarding my application. I'd rather not ask about disclosing this information because I'd be revealing it by asking the question in the first place.

Thanks in advance for your help!


I would be honest. I mean, some of these questions won't make PC not take you, they just need to know. For example, if you have a background in depression, you shouldn't take one certain anti-malaria medicine, for one thing. Anyway, I also had anxiety (in my case in college, not high school) and went to the shrink for it, but PC just made me write an essay about how I am all better now. You will probably have to write similar. That was all in the past.

I also (currently) have chronic depression, and am taking pills for it, and I'm serving. The PC knows all about it, and they may very well know about this LJ post, for that matter, because it's not locked. Anyway...tell them. You may get disqualified, yes, but it's better to have everything on board. I managed to get rather (physically) sick in-country and everything has been handled well, but the whole process would have been much more difficult if the doctor didn't know everything about me medically (including my depression). You never know what might be relevant. And yes, they can throw you out for being dishonest.
So the answers to those questions are: yes, yes, and yes. And no, you can't change it later. Once you send it in, it's done.
I plan on telling them about my depression, anxiety, and ADHD, because they need to know and it would be impossible for me to hide it. I know it will be a longer and more difficult process to convince them that I'm fit to serve with these diagnoses, but I truly believe I'm capable and well suited to be a volunteer, and I'm going to do everything in my power to convince them of the same.

I'm REALLY concerned about the SPECIFIC incidents of "substance abuse counseling" and whether the "ever tried to harm self or commit suicide" applies to my particular situation.

I want to find out if they do apply to me, but I'm afraid that there is no way of finding out officially whether they DO or DO NOT apply to me without revealing that information. If it doesn't apply, then I won't reveal it... but how can I find out if it does??

Thanks for your advice. I'm glad that you were able to get through the medical clearance process. Have you personally encountered any problems or additional challenges because of your depression? If so, did you receive the support you needed?
I have a colleague here who was once addicted to drugs; she or he obviously passed medical clearance, and in fact they say you are fine if you've been clean 5 years. I am quite sure we have people with ADHD and anxiety here; they are quite common diagnoses. No additional problems with depression, though other problems (as I said above) have cropped up. In my country, at least, we have great peer support for mental health problems.
I developed anxiety in college as well... mostly related to writing and academic performance.

I know that it is all in the past... I just hope they will see it too.
Since you have already posted it in a public place, you have in fact admitted it all to the Peace Corps. I am sure someone, somewhere, in the organization reads this, is a member of this. So you really have no choice but to put what you put here. That being said, you will have extra forms to fill out and probably have to visit with a psych but it seems like from what you have explained that all of this stuff was a while ago, you have moved on etc.... a lot of people have had worse things then caffine pills and made it through clearance. I don't think anything you mentioned would disqualify you, my understanding(from others, I didn't need any of these forms) you will be asked to meet with a psychologist/counslar, write an explanation or essay on these issues and how you plan to cope with them while serving. So it will be some extra work but not impossiable.
As far as the other things like dates etc.... they will send a form you have to take to the treating doctor to fill out who will have the dates of service. The forms arn't all that specific for example one of mine was about a "surgery on the head or neck" I filled out the HSR in October and got these forms in February or January and didn't remeber what I had put for what but do know that I had a minor procedure done in my nose and have had 6 oral surgeries. When I called the nurse to ask which this would be for he was rather annoyed, didn't want to listen but eventiually told me to take it to the ENT and not the oral surgeon. I was supprised they would send forms without being more specfic and then not even know what it was for once I called. So my adivce is to print out a copy of what you awnser and don't worry so much about spefics as they will ask for that later on the forms.
Peace Corps basically wants assurances that if you join, you're going to stay. I would say be honest but add the explanations to show the context. With substance abuse, they want to make sure you are not going to develop a substance problem in country. With the suicide, they want to make sure your are not going to kill yourself in country. With the other psychological conditions, they want to make sure you are not going to develop a severe pathology while in service. If you can let them know that the issues have been worked with, you should be ok
Yes, you need to admit all of this. If you leave ANYthing out on your medical form and they find out about it, you get sent home lickety-split, no questions asked.

They need to know all of this, no matter how mundane it might seem to you. You're faced with a lot of your own demons in the PC, and they need to be prepared with how to help you. The malaria meds can mess you up, as people say, so they can at least put you somewhere you don't need to take them solidly for 2 years.

Because all of that was so long ago, they will probably make you write that essay. I had a medical condition no one in PC had even heard of but hadn't had any symptoms for years...I just wrote an essay explaining my history of it and what happened and that I hadn't had symptoms in years...no problem.