Can Mental Health Issues Jeopardize Your Professional License?

October 17, 2022
The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford

It’s no secret that doctors, lawyers, and other professionals face higher rates of depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues than other occupations. While mental health issues have become less stigmatized in recent years, many professionals still worry about how they will affect their careers. Some professionals even report that they avoid treatment for fear of the implications a diagnosis may have on their ability to practice. Leaving your mental health untreated can compromise your career, but professionals should discuss their situation with an experienced professional license defense attorney if they need to understand their obligations and the potential impacts. 

Concerns for Those Applying for Licenses

When applying for a professional license, it is important to make sure that your application is truthful and that you are providing complete answers. If your licensing board is asking you to disclose whether you have been diagnosed with any mental health issues, you need to proceed carefully. The licensing board may have good reason to request this information to ensure that you can provide services that comply with their professional standards. Healthcare professions, for example, want to protect the safety of their patients. 

As a result, you may be obligated to disclose this information. Failing to disclose a diagnosis or providing an incomplete answer could later result in disciplinary action. Instead, you can consult with a professional license defense attorney. They can help you assemble the documentation you need to demonstrate that your condition has been treated or is being managed and that it will not impact your professional obligations. 

Does it Impact Your Professional Obligations?  

For those professionals who are already licensed, you should review your reporting obligations as to whether you need to proactively disclose a mental health diagnosis. Keep in mind that your doctor or therapist cannot disclose the diagnosis to anyone without your consent, so the licensing board is unlikely to learn about it. That said, a failure to disclose when you were obligated to inform them could be problematic in the future. 

You should chiefly focus on whether your mental health issues have or could potentially impact your professional obligations. If it has not impacted your career, you want to be sure that you continue to actively manage your condition and stay on top of your treatment. 

For those who are already facing disciplinary action due to mental health issues, disclosure could affect the severity of the punishment you face. You may be able to avoid suspension or revocation if you agree to seek treatment, for example. However, you should consult with a professional license defense attorney if you are already under investigation – disclosing a mental health issue should be carefully considered and with guidance from someone who understands the disciplinary process. 

You Cannot Be Discriminated Against Due to Your Mental Health

Ultimately, it is important to remember you are protected by the ADA if you have been diagnosed with a mental illness. This means that your licensing board cannot discriminate against you solely on the basis of your diagnosis. 

If you are facing disciplinary action, the board cannot treat you any differently than they treated someone who committed a similar violation. The board may be required to show why suspension or revocation of your license is appropriate in light of the facts and circumstances surrounding your case. For those who are applying for a license, the board cannot deny your application based solely on your diagnosis. 

Whatever situation you may be facing, disclosure of a mental health issue requires careful consideration. The best thing you can do to protect yourself and your career is to consult with an experienced professional license attorney. 

What About HIPPA?

When discussing whether or not your licensing board can compel you to disclose a mental health diagnosis, many people make the mistake of refusing to comply based on the belief that the information is protected under HIPAA. HIPAA protects the confidentiality of medical information, including information related to mental health. However, the HIPAA rules protecting confidentiality are not absolute. In this case, the professional is the one who is being requested to disclose their own information, not their medical provider or therapist. As a result, there is no breach of confidentiality and HIPAA does not apply.  

Contact the Law Firm of J.W. Stafford for Help

Professional license defense lawyer J.W. Stafford has deep experience in helping professionals protect their licenses and their careers. If you have questions about your license and potential mental health issues, contact us today at 410-514-6099 to schedule a consultation.