Over the last two nights, twenty of the Democrats running for president held their second debate. Now, I don’t care who you are supporting. I don’t care if you’ll be voting for Trump in 2020 or one of the many faces we saw over the course of the last two nights. I don’t care because this page isn’t about politics. Yet, whoever sits in the Oval Office on January 21, 2021 will have to address mental health.
During the debates that took place during the last two nights, you heard all kinds of stats about climate change and how many Americans are uninsured or under-insured, about how many are homeless, etc. But by my count only Gov. Jay Inslee, Rep. Beto O’Rourke, and Andrew Yang mentioned mental health specifically (if I missed someone else who talked about it I apologize, it is hard to keep track of the talking points of 20 different candidates).
Yet rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide are on the rise among America’s youth. Mental health issues feed into homelessness, addiction, physical health issues, and so much more. One in four people are uninsured or under-insured and you’ll hear a lot from both parties about how to address that problem, but 1 in 4 Americans also suffer from some sort of mental illness and you hear almost nothing about it.
And I get that a debate stage isn’t the easiest place to discuss a complex problem like access to mental health care. After all, with this many candidates you barely have a chance to shake hands and say your name before you’re out of time. Yet it needs to be talked about.
Because time needs to be up. Time needs to be up on the silence that millions with mental health issues still face. Time needs to be up on the stigma. Time needs to be up on the uphill battle one faces for access to therapy and treatment. Time needs to be up on the fact we lose about 20 veterans a day to suicide, more if you add in first responders. Time needs to be up on a country and a world that doesn’t talk about mental health. Time needs to be up.
The dark tales of mental illness don’t need to be tales of silence. The more we talk about it, the more others realize they aren’t alone, and hopefully, the more our politicians begin to take note.
I don’t have an end for this post, because the story of mental health policy in this country isn’t over. It is still being written. But I do have hope. I have hope because I do believe we are chipping away at the stigma. I do have hope that more people will continue to talk openly and honestly about their battles and their demons. And I do have hope that someday in the near future, our elected officials will talk about it too. Because we don’t have time for politicians and policymakers who continue to ignore the mental health issues in this country.