Mental Health Background Check: What Shows (And When to be Worried)

Background check repair icon.Written by Background Check Repair

Background Checks | May 19, 2022

Being nervous about a mental health background check is normal. Most people don’t have any idea about the stuff that shows up on it and wonder if they should be worried about a potential employer seeing some past incident or mistake.

Fortunately, mental health background checks are very rare and only used in very specific circumstances. So most people don’t need to worry about them.

But…there are some things on a mental health background check that can negatively impact someone’s life and be used against them when it’s part of what shows up on a background check.

Since a person’s mental health record is protected by privacy laws, knowing who can access it and when mental health records can be used despite public health privacy laws, is key.

The best way to ensure that mental health records aren’t appearing on a background check is to do one on yourself.

Related Reading: How to Get a Copy of My Criminal Record

Since mental health background check reports are used for certain professional positions (like nursing background checks) and can be accessed by law enforcement officials, this private health information can be used to assess government job eligibility and can apply to gun background checks and background checks for concealed carry permit requests.

So, if a person has mental health issues in their past, a background check may reveal them to potential employers (such as with a background check for daycare or a caregiver background check). Likewise, if a person needs to purchase a firearm, the record may be used to deny them in certain states.

This guide outlines all the ways a mental health background check can be used, what it will show, and when a mental health record can negatively impact a person’s life.

Can Employers Check Your Mental Health History? (HIPAA Regulations)

Can employers check mental health records? No, not really. A person’s mental health is considered part of their physical health record, as such, it is not commonly part of what shows up on an employment background check.

U.S Congress passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act5 (HIPAA) in 1996. The act gave the United States Department of Human Services the mandate of keeping patients’ personal information and other healthcare consumers as private as possible.3

HIPPA screenshot explaining what records are protected and can employers check your mental health history as well as preventing does mental health show up on background check.

The HIPAA privacy rule protects people from unauthorized disclosure of personal health information, and mental health records are part of it.

However, when an employer provides a self-insured health plan for its workers, it operates a health clinic for employees, or is an intermediary for health care providers, it is bound by the protections outlined by the HIPAA privacy regulation.2

Also, sometimes mental health records are disclosed during a health care enrollment process. But, employers cannot ask current or prospective employees about specific diseases unless the individual is asking permission for accommodation for a disability.

The only time an individual’s health records are released is when the employer gets a signed consent from them or a signed court order by a judge, which is very rare.

So, basically, a mental health record will not be disclosed during the hiring process or on a background check for employment, unless the job requires an extensive level 2 background checkIt will not show up on things like a Home Depot background check or a Walmart background check.

Related Reading: Can a background check reveal past employers?

Background Check: Mental Health Records (Does a Background Check Show Mental Health Records?)

Most people want to know whether a background check will show a mental health record. For most cases, no, it won’t.

However, there are a few exceptions to this rule. Law enforcement can gain access to a person’s mental health record when that person is involved in a legal violation, infraction, or crime. Likewise, jobs that involve patients part of a nursing background check) and high levels of responsibilities (like a security clearance background check) can include a search of mental health records.

A medical practitioner must keep a person’s medical history confidential, but that does not mean that someone cannot access it.

In the ordinary course of tenant and employment screening, mental health records do not feature unless they are linked to eviction or other public criminal record.1,3

Typically, most background checks will not show physical health information and mental health records. Definitely not during the pre-employment background check.

Medical privacy rights with background hceck California, explaining do mental health records show up background check and when mental health records background check are allowed.

To obtain these records, the employer has to obtain authorization from the individual or a signed order from a judge. But if the mental health records are relevant to the job they are applying for, the employer is permitted6 to do so, though in rare scenarios.1

What Shows Up on A Mental Health Background Check?

A mental health background check reveals a person’s psychological conditions, medical prescriptions related to the condition, frequency of treatment, session start and stop times, clinical summaries, summaries of symptoms, diagnosis, prognosis, medicine details, test or scan results, and other mental health information from the person’s entire life.

Typically, a mental health background check is used in states that require it for firearm ownership and specific professions.

For example, New York provides a platform for conducting mental health background checks using the Automated Mental Health Background Check7 (MHBC).

The MHBC system automatically allows businesses to search all public mental health systems. Individuals requesting pistol permits, explosives, long rifles, and certain types of employment can use the system to check their mental health background to see if they meet the criteria.3

Every staff who uses the system must obtain Information Security Training and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability training. Residents of New York State can get the training from the New York Statewide Learning Management System.8

These regulations are in place to comply with HIPPA.

What States Check Mental Health Records: Background Check?

Forty-seven states have laws that authorize and require reporting relevant data identifying anyone who is prohibited from acquiring firearms due to mental health-related issues.

But, all states have varying degrees of requirements. The following table outlines the most common:

StateRequires reporting involuntary commitmentRequires reporting court orders to undergo involuntary outpatient treatmentRequires reporting individuals who are under guardianship
AlabamaYes
AlaskaYes
ArizonaYesYesYes
CaliforniaYesYesYes
ConnecticutYes
DelawareYes
GeorgiaYes
HawaiiYesYes
IdahoYesYesYes
IllinoisYesYesYes
IndianaYesYes
IowaYes
KansasYes
KentuckyYes
LouisianaYes
MaineYes
MarylandYesYes
MassachusettsYesYes
MinnesotaYes
MississippiYesYesYes
NevadaYesYesYes
New JerseyYes
New MexicoYes
New YorkYesYes
North CarolinaYesYes
North DakotaYesYesYes
OklahomaYes
OregonYesYes
PennsylvaniaYesYes
Rhode IslandYes
South CarolinaYesYes
South DakotaYes
TennesseeYesYes
TexasYesYes
UtahYes
VermontYesYes
VirginiaYesYesYes
WashingtonYesYes
WisconsinYesYesYes

Out of these states, the following states have laws requiring agencies, courts, and mental health officials to report the necessary mental health information regarding commitments and adjudications within a specified period3:

StateTime Frame
ArkansasImmediately
CaliforniaImmediately
Colorado48 hours
FloridaOne month
KansasFive days
IllinoisSeven days
Louisiana25 days
Maryland“Promptly”
MichiganImmediately
MinnesotaWithin three business days
Mississippi30 days
NebraskaAs soon as practicable but within 30 days
NevadaWithin five business days
New MexicoUpon entry of a court order, judgment or verdict
North Carolina48 hours, excluding weekends and holidays
OhioSeven days
PennsylvaniaSeven days
Rhode Island48 hours
South CarolinaFive days
South DakotaSeven days
TennesseeAs soon as practicable but no later than the third business day
Texas30 days
Utah48 hours
Virginia“As soon as practicable, but no later than the close of business on the following business day”
WashingtonThree judicial days
Wisconsin“In a timely manner”

In some states, disclosure to the NICS of a person’s mental health record is authorized but not required.

These states include West Virginia, Nebraska, Missouri, Florida, and Colorado.2

Mental Health Background Check: Gun Purchases by State

When purchasing a firearm, a mental health record will be checked in the National database, but only if the state has submitted the information to the Criminal Justice Department.

NICS Background Check: Mental Health Background Checks for Firearm Ownership

The “Brady Act” of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act makes it a requirement for all Federal Firearms Licensees to do a background check before transferring a firearm or an explosive. These background checks are performed using the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).9

NICS Process

When one tries to buy an explosive or a firearm, the Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL), the seller, contacts the NICS by phone or electronically. The potential buyers fill out the ATF form,10 and the seller conveys this data to the NICS, which then runs a background check on the person. The background check reveals whether the person is eligible for a firearm purchase or not.2

NICS Services

The NICS gives the FFLs full service in the District of Columbia, 31 states, and five United States territories. It also offers partial service to 6 states, and the remaining 13 states conduct their search through NICS.

NICS Availability

The NICS can be reached by phone seven days a week, 17 hours a day, including holidays. All calls are recorded and monitored. However, the NICS e-check11 is always available.

What Jobs Check Mental Health Records? (Federal Background Check System)

Certain safety and security positions like the military and law enforcement agencies require a person to pass a mental health background check. The same applies to some healthcare positions and any government job with high-security clearance. The mental health check looks at a person’s past and current mental health to determine suitability.2

How To Obtain Mental Health Records

A person can call or visit their health care provider and request a copy of their health records. The person is then required to sign for the release of these forms.

The following table shows the departments responsible for mental health background checks in every state.

StateMental Background Check Link
New York Mental Background CheckOffice of Mental Health7
Texas Mental Background CheckOffice of Mental Health Coordination12
Iowa Mental Background CheckDivision of Mental Health and Disability Services13
Wyoming Mental Background CheckBehavioral Health division14
Wisconsin Mental Background CheckDepartment of Health Sciences15
Alaska Mental Background CheckDivision of Behavioral Health16
Alabama Mental Background CheckDepartment of Mental Health17
Arkansas Mental Background CheckDepartment of Human Sciences18
California Mental Background CheckMental Health Services Division19
Colorado Mental Background CheckDepartment of Human Sciences20
Connecticut Mental Background CheckDepartment of Mental Health and Addiction21
Delaware Mental Background CheckDivision of Substance Abuse and Mental Health22
Florida Mental Background CheckOffice of Behavioral Health23
Georgia Mental Background CheckDepartment for Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities24
Hawaii Mental Background CheckAdult Mental Health Division25
Idaho Mental Background CheckDepartment of Health and Welfare26
Illinois Mental Background CheckDepartment of Human Sciences27
Indiana Mental Background CheckMental Health Services28
Kansas Mental Background CheckBehavioral Health Sciences Commission29
Kentucky Mental Background CheckDepartment for Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities30
Louisiana Mental Background CheckOffice of Behavioral Health31
Maine Mental Background CheckOffice of Behavioral Health32
Maryland Mental Background CheckCommission to Study Mental Health and Behavioral Health in Maryland33
Massachusetts Mental Background CheckMassachusetts Department of Mental Health34
Michigan Mental Background CheckDepartment of Mental Health35
Minnesota Mental Background CheckOffice of Ombudsman for Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities36
Mississippi Mental Background CheckMississippi Department of Mental Health37
Missouri Mental Background CheckDepartment of Mental Health38
Montana Mental Background CheckMental Health Sciences Bureau39
Nebraska Mental Background CheckDivision of Behavioral Health40
Nevada Mental Background CheckDepartment of Health and Human Services41
New Hampshire Mental Background CheckDepartment of Health and Human Sciences42
New Jersey Mental Background CheckThe Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services43
New Mexico Mental Background CheckThe Human Services Department44
New York Mental Background CheckDepartment of Health and Mental Hygiene45
North Carolina Mental Background CheckMental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services46
North Dakota Mental Background CheckDepartment of Human Services47
Ohio Mental Background CheckDepartment of Mental Health and Addiction Services48
Oklahoma Mental Background CheckOklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse49
Oregon Mental Background CheckBehavioral Health Sciences50
Pennsylvania Mental Background CheckDepartment of Human Sciences51
Rhode Island Mental Background CheckDepartment of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals52
South Carolina Mental Background CheckDepartment of Mental Health53
South Dakota Mental Background CheckDivision of Behavioral Health54
Tennessee Mental Background CheckDepartment of Health and Substance Abuse Services55
Utah Mental Background CheckDivision of Substance Abuse and Mental Health56
Vermont Mental Background CheckVermont Department of Mental Health57
Virginia Mental Background CheckDepartment of Behavioral Health and Developmental Sciences
Washington Mental Background CheckOffice of Forensic Mental Health Services58
West Virginia Mental Background CheckBureau for Behavioral Health59

Mental health background check reports are important for maintaining safety in certain industries (such as health care), but although HIPPA laws protect a person’s privacy, mental health records can still be used and accessed by both employers and law enforcement.

Frequently Asked Questions about Mental Health Background Check Process

Does Mental Health Show Up on Background Check

Background checks correlate with mental health background checks. A person’s mental health may come up in a background check during a background check, though not always.1

Do Mental Health Records Show Up Background Check?

Mental health records do not appear on background checks; only criminal charges or anything listed on the public index, such as evictions or criminal records.2

Does A Background Check Show Mental Health?

The law prohibits a person’s health record from being a public record; therefore, a background check does not show mental health. It only indicates criminal records or evictions.1

How Long Does A 5150 Stay on Your Record?

5150 stays on someone’s record permanently and bars them from possessing ammunition and firearms. These records are forever and cannot be overturned.4

How Long Does A 302 Stay on Your Record?

302 stays on a person’s record for the rest of their lives unless their attorney petitions and has it removed.

Can A Mentally Ill Person Own a Gun in Colorado?

As per the federal law to which Colorado is subject, a person is prohibited from owning a gun if they have ever been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor or if they have a mental condition.

What Does It Mean to Be Committed to A Mental Institution?

Committed to a mental institution60 means that a person has formally been committed to a mental institution either by a commission, board, court, or any lawful authority. The term also incorporates involuntarily committing to a mental facility as an outpatient or inpatient.

Does Involuntary Commitment Show Up on Background Check?

Anyone involuntarily admitted to a mental facility or found a danger to themselves and others has their records in the system. These records show up during background checks.4

What Disqualifies You From Owning a Gun in NJ Mental Health?

Someone who has ever been committed to a mental institution or adjudicated as a mental defective is not allowed to own a gun in New Jersey.


References

1Medical Privacy – Workplace Fairness. (2022, February 9). Workplace Fairness. <https://www.workplacefairness.org/medical-privacy-workplace>

2Will My Mental Health Record Show Up in My Background Check? (2021, June 11). Active Screening. <https://www.activescreening.com/blog/will-my-mental-health-record-show-up-in-my-background-check/#:%7E:text=State%20governments%20have%20tripled%20since,in%20its%20firearm%20background%20checks>

3Mental Health Reporting. (2021, October 7). Giffords. <https://giffords.org/lawcenter/gun-laws/policy-areas/background-checks/mental-health-reporting/>

4Mental Health Holds. (2021, May 24). BulletPoints Project. <https://www.bulletpointsproject.org/mental-health-holds/>

5Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). (2022). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. <https://www.cdc.gov/phlp/publications/topic/hipaa.html#:~:text=The%20Health%20Insurance%20Portability%20and,the%20patient%27s%20consent%20or%20knowledge>

6Employment and Your Medical Privacy (California Medical Privacy Series). (2012). Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. <https://privacyrights.org/consumer-guides/employment-and-your-medical-privacy-california-medical-privacy-series>

7The Automated Mental Health Background Check (MHBC). (2022). Office of Mental Health.   <https://omh.ny.gov/omhweb/mhbc/index.html >

8Statewide Learning Management System. (2018). New York State of Opportunity. <https://nyslearn.ny.gov/>

9National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). (2022). FBI.gov. <https://www.fbi.gov/services/cjis/nics>

10ATF Form 4473 – Firearms Transaction Record Revisions. (2022). ATF – Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives logoBureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. <https://www.atf.gov/firearms/atf-form-4473-firearms-transaction-record-revisions>

11FBI NICS E-Check Welcome Page. (2022). FBI NICS E-Check. <https://nicsezcheckfbi.gov/>

12Office of Mental Health Coordination. (2022). Texas Health and Human Services. <https://www.hhs.texas.gov/about/process-improvement/improving-services-texans/behavioral-health-services/office-mental-health-coordination>

13Division of Mental Health and Disability Services – Overview. (2022). Iowa.gov. <https://dhs.iowa.gov/mhds>

14Behavioral Health Division – Helpful Highlights. (2022). Wyoming Department of Health. <https://health.wyo.gov/behavioralhealth/#:~:text=Behavioral%20Health%20Division%20%2D%20Wyoming%20Department%20of%20Health>

15Mental Health: Provider Information. (2022). Wisconsin Department of Health Services. <https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/mh/index.htm#:~:text=Mental%20Health%3A%20Provider%20Information%20%7C%20Wisconsin%20Department%20of%20Health%20Services>

16Introduction to the Division of Behavioral Health. (2022). Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. <https://dhss.alaska.gov/dbh/Pages/Performance%20Measures/Core-Service.aspx#:~:text=The%20Division%20of%20Behavioral%20Health%20has%20a%20commitment%20to%20improve,according%20to%20their%20presenting%20need>

17Alabama Department of Mental Health. (2022). Alabama Department of Mental Health. <https://mh.alabama.gov/>

18Division of Aging, Adult, & Behavioral Health Services. (2022). The Official Website of the State of Arkansas. <https://humanservices.arkansas.gov/divisions-shared-services/aging-adult-behavioral-health-services/#:~:text=Aging%2C%20Adult%2C%20%26%20Behavioral%20Health,Arkansas%20Department%20of%20Human%20Services>

19Mental Health Services Division. (2022). Ca.gov. <https://www.dhcs.ca.gov/services/Pages/MentalHealthPrograms-Svcs.aspx>

20Behavioral health. (2022). Colorado Department of Human Services. <https://cdhs.colorado.gov/behavioral-health>

21Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. (2022). ct.gov. <https://portal.ct.gov/dmhas>

22Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health. (2022). Delaware.gov. <https://dhss.delaware.gov/dsamh/#:~:text=Division%20of%20Substance%20Abuse%20and,Social%20Services%20%2D%20State%20of%20Delaware>

23Behavioral Health. (2022). Florida Health. <https://www.floridahealth.gov/programs-and-services/emergency-preparedness-and-response/prepare-yourself/behavioral-health/index.html>

24Mental Health for Adults. (2022). Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. <https://dbhdd.georgia.gov/be-dbhdd/be-supported/mental-health-adults>

25WELCOME TO THE HAWAII STATE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH ADULT MENTAL HEALTH DIVISION (AMHD) WEBSITE. (2022). Hawaii.gov. <https://health.hawaii.gov/amhd/>

26Contact Us. (2022). Idaho Department of Health & Welfare. <https://healthandwelfare.idaho.gov/contact-us>

27Mental Health. (2020). Illinois Department of Human Services. <https://www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?item=29735>

28Mental Health Services. (2022). In.gov. <https://www.in.gov/fssa/dmha/apply-for-services/mental-health-services/#:~:text=FSSA%3A%20DMHA%3A%20Mental%20Health%20Services>

29Kansas Behavioral Health Services. (2022). Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services. <https://kdads.ks.gov/kdads-commissions/behavioral-health#:~:text=The%20Behavioral%20Health%20Services%20Commission,including%20targeted%20workforce%20development%20initiatives>

30Division of Behavioral Health. (2022). Ky.gov. <https://dbhdid.ky.gov/dbh/>

31BEHAVIORAL HEALTH. (2022). Louisiana Department of Health. <https://ldh.la.gov/subhome/10>

32About the Maine Office of Behavioral Health. (2021). Maine.gov. <https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/obh/about>

33Rutherford, L. G. B. K. (2022). Commission to Study Mental and Behavioral Health in Maryland. Maryland.gov. <https://governor.maryland.gov/ltgovernor/mbhcommission/commission-to-study-mental-and-behavioral-health-in-maryland/>

34Massachusetts Department of Mental Health. (2022). Mass.gov. <https://www.mass.gov/orgs/massachusetts-department-of-mental-health>

35Mental Health. (2022). Michigan.gov. <https://www.michigan.gov/mdhhs/keep-mi-healthy/mentalhealth/mentalhealth>

36What is an Ombudsman? What Does This Ombudsman Do? (2022). Minnesota Office of Ombudsman for Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities. <https://mn.gov/omhdd/>

37Welcome to Mississippi Department of Mental Health. (2022). The Mississippi Department of Mental Health. <http://www.dmh.ms.gov/>

38Missouri Department of Mental Health. (2022). Missouri Department of Mental Health. <https://dmh.mo.gov/>

39MEDICAID AND PUBLIC MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES FOR ADULTS. (2022). Montana.gov. <https://dphhs.mt.gov/amdd/mentalhealthservices/#:~:text=The%20Mental%20Health%20Services%20Bureau,funded%20Adult%20Mental%20Health%20Services>

40Behavioral Health. (2022). Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. <https://dhhs.ne.gov/Pages/behavioral-health.aspx>

41Program Guide 2016. (2016). Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health. <https://www.leg.state.nv.us/interim/78th2015/committee/statcom/healthcare/other/23-march-2016/9itemviiidjuliapeekprogramguidedpbhmarch2016.pdf?rewrote=1#:~:text=The%20Nevada%20Division%20of%20Public,Mental%20Health%20and%20Developmental%20Services>

42Welcome to the new DHHS website! (2022). New Hampshire Department of Health & Human Services. <https://www.dhhs.nh.gov/dcbcs/bbh/>

43Mental Health. (2022). State of New Jersey Department of Human Services. <https://www.nj.gov/humanservices/clients/mental/>

44Behavioral Health Services Division. (2012). Human Services Department. <https://www.hsd.state.nm.us/about_the_department/behavioral_health_services_division/#:~:text=The%20Human%20Services%20Department%20is,the%20state%27s%20behavioral%20health%20care>

45About the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. (2022). NYC Health. <https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/about/about-doh.page>

46Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services. (2022). NCDHHS. <https://www.ncdhhs.gov/divisions/mental-health-developmental-disabilities-and-substance-abuse-services>

47Behavioral Health Human Services. (2014). Nd.gov. <https://www.behavioralhealth.nd.gov/>

48Offices and Bureaus. (2022). Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. <https://mha.ohio.gov/about-us/offices-bureaus#:~:text=Offices%20and%20Bureaus%20%7C%20Department%20of%20Mental%20Health%20and%20Addiction%20Services>

49Oklahoma State Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse. (2020). Oklahoma.gov. <https://oklahoma.gov/odmhsas.html>

50Behavioral Health Services. (2022). Oregon.gov. <https://www.oregon.gov/oha/hsd/amh/pages/index.aspx>

51Mental Health in PA. (2022). PA.gov. <https://www.dhs.pa.gov/Services/Mental-Health-In-PA/Pages/default.aspx>

52Certification, Training, And Licensure. (2022). Ri.gov. <https://bhddh.ri.gov/mental-health/provider-and-professional-information/certification-training-and-licensure#:~:text=The%20RI%20Department%20of%20Health,and%20Licensed%20Chemical%20Dependency%20Professionals>

53Department of Mental Health. (2018). South Carolina Department of Mental Health. <https://scdmh.net/>

54Behavioral Health General Information. (2020). South Dakota Department of Social Services. <https://dss.sd.gov/behavioralhealth/>

55Williams, M. (n.d.). Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. TN.gov. <https://www.tn.gov/behavioral-health/who-we-are.html#:~:text=The%20Tennessee%20Department%20of%20Mental,health%20and%20substance%20abuse%20authority>

56SUBSTANCE ABUSE AND MENTAL HEALTH. (2022). Utah.gov. <https://dsamh.utah.gov/>

57ABOUT US. (2022). AGENCY OF HUMAN SERVICES Department of Mental Health. <https://mentalhealth.vermont.gov/about-us>

58Office of Forensic Mental Health Services. (2022). Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. <https://www.dshs.wa.gov/bha/office-forensic-mental-health-services>

59Bureau for Behavioral Health. (2022). Wv.gov. <https://dhhr.wv.gov/bbh/Pages/default.aspx>

60MENTAL ILLNESS AND FIREARM LAWS. (n.d.). OLR Research Report. <https://www.cga.ct.gov/2014/rpt/2014-R-0253.htm>