With May being Mental Health Awareness month and June’s primary elections looming on the horizon, your voice and your vote are more important than ever. Our cities and states are growing larger, moving quicker, and resources are depleting at an alarming rate. As policy changes affect almost every aspect of our lives, it is critical to participate in state legislature.
This is most evident in healthcare policy. While at the national level, the Affordable Care Act is supposed to expand services to roughly 33 million Americans, the specifics of that care is largely determined by each state. Medicaid expansion and insurance exchanges are state issues, ultimately influencing whether you can afford your prescription this month or are able to see a particular provider.
Mental health care, in particular, is a crucial point of concern. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 1 in 4 American adults struggles with a diagnosable mental health disorder in any given year. This roughly translates to almost 60 million people. Mental disorders are also the leading cause of disability in the United States. Political candidates, on any level, should be making mental health care in their communities a pivotal point of discussion. We, as their public constituents, should be demanding they do just that.
As a society, we tend to be reactive rather than proactive. We complain and protest after the fact rather than anticipating and enacting preventative measures to ensure our well-being. Use your voice to prevent rather than complain. Voting is one of the best ways of advocating for yourself and your community.
Learn about your state candidates and their mental health platforms. Making well-informed decisions to vote is the foundation of beneficial policy implementation. Do not rely on mainstream media for information and avoid voting strictly along party lines. Take the time to really get to know your candidates and the issues for which they stand. Keep some key mental health policy objectives in mind when choosing a candidate.
NAMI outlines eight objectives in particular:
Increase Access to Effective Mental Health Care
Promote Integration of Mental Health, Addictions and Primary Care
Strengthen the Mental Health Workforce
Eliminate Disparities in Mental Health Care
Ensure Transparency and Accountability
Improve the Mental Health of Children and Youth
Provide Homes and Jobs for People Living with Mental Illness
End the Inappropriate Jailing of People with Mental Illness
Use your voice to ask candidates important questions about mental health. Utilize various forums such as websites, campaign rallies, talk shows, radio shows, or to make yourself heard. Important questions include:
How will you improve healthcare for people with mental disorders?
How will you meet demand for public mental health resources?
How will you meet the shortage of mental health professionals?
What will you do to address housing needs of people with mental disorders?
How will you help people with mental disorders return to work?
What will you do to decrease the number of people with mental illnesses in our jails and prisons?
In what ways will you support mental health research?
Stay Updated and Informed
Keep current with candidate websites, listen to speeches, and watch debates.
Spread the word about the importance of mental health issues. Use social media, talk to your friends and family. People around you care about what you care about.
One of the most important ways you can be heard and make a difference is using your right to vote. Contact your state election committee to find out how to register to vote.