There is no doubt that America’s system for the mentally ill is broken. However, how much have you heard the candidates talk about it? Have the candidates worked through what they would say if they were confronted with the answer? Is the media daring enough to ask the candidates questions that deal with mental illness?
Some questions that candidates should ponder:
- Should a soldier be able to still serve after being diagnosed with a mental illness?
- Are famous people who have a mental illness capable of continuing their careers?
- If someone is employed, should they be forced to quit because they have a mental illness?
- Should police officers with a mental illness be allowed to serve the people they protect?
- Should someone running for political office not be allowed to run if they have a mental illness?
- If someone with a mental illness lived next door to you, would you want to move?
- If you found out someone you were related to had a mental illness, would you accept them?
These are all questions that all presidential candidates who are running for political office should ask themselves. That would be the first step in deciding how to approach the topic that no one wants to talk about- mental illness and the broken mental health system.
After they ask themselves these questions, they really need to think hard about what their own opinions are when it comes to the mentally ill. There is still the dark shadow of stigma as it relates to mental illness. How much do they actually know about mental illness and have they ever judged anyone because they have a mental illness? Are they someone who contributes to the stigma by not standing up for them or getting involved in legislation that can change the mental health system? Are they afraid to talk about mental illness at all because they are afraid they will say the wrong thing? Is it easier for them to say that there needs to be a major overhaul when it comes to mental health, but really have never thought about what their first steps would be?
From here, there are different directions and approaches the candidate can take:
First, they need to re-evaluate their thoughts about the mentally ill. This would require learning as much as they can about each illness, finding out what the resources are where people can go if they have a mental illness, learning where people can go if they suspect someone has a mental illness, find out what famous people through out history have had mental illnesses, what major organizations deal with mental illness, and start to realize that they had been stigmatizing the mentally ill or I would predict they would have no chance at reaching the voters who have a mental illness or have a loved one who has one.
If they do think they know as much as they can possibly know about mental illness, don’t contribute to the stigma, have a mental illness, have a loved one who has a mental illness or recognize that everyone in America is affected by a broken mental health system, then they have a good chance at capturing those voters who consider mental health as an important topic that should be discussed in the debates.
It is then up to them to come up with a plan as to how they are going to address this topic that people just do not want to talk about. It is like Congressman Patrick Kennedy said when he was referring to mental illness and how important it is to face the stigma head on. He said, that my child and all children should start having “check-ups from the head up” starting young. That needs to continue throughout a person’s life.
Their plan to bring it up may be solved as there is mental health advocates are on a mission to Make the Candidates Talk about Mental Health. If they succeed, they need to make sure that they do not use words like “crazy” or “psycho” to describe the mentally ill. Those are hopefully common sense. However, they also need to make sure they do not use the terms bipolar, OCD, and schizo as adjectives or very loosely. They should learn what not to say when talking to people who have mental illnesses by reading the many blogs written about this.
Being sensitive is important, but what America needs right now is to fix this broken system. Here are some of the things that mental health advocates think are important:
- There are not enough psychiatric hospital beds and psychiatrists
- Stigma runs rampant throughout society.
- People are not educated as to what to do when they suspect someone has a mental illness
- The mentally ill are not getting the help they need when they need it resulting in horrific events
- Even doctors have no patience and compassion for the mentally ill
- Mentally ill patients are treated poorly while hospitalized-sometimes abused
- The mentally ill are being jailed instead of getting the help they need
- The mentally ill are actually being killed as a result of officers not being trained
These are just some of the problems that need to be solved. As far as solutions, Congress is currently work on bills. However, the mental health advocate community is constantly debating those.
A leader- THE PRESIDENT- needs to understand the problems by gathering as much information as he/she can and then start getting input not only from the legislative branch and doctors, but also the mentally ill and their families.
So, if you are a presidential candidate, HOW do you plan to SOLVE the mental health system?
If you would like to gain at least 25% of voters (1 in 4 people in the United States has a mental illness) come up with a solution. Please don’t just tell the advocates that you think there is a problem and something needs to be done about it.