Demi Lovato brought the house down Monday night at the 2016 Democratic National Convention with her performance of “Confident.” But Lovato’s true shining moment came before she sang, in her frank and open discussion of mental health.
“Like millions of Americans, I am living with mental illness,” Lovato told the convention, referring to her struggles with bulimia and bipolar disorder. She credits rehab and therapy with helping her get sober and manage her mental illness.
“But I’m lucky,” Lovato said. “I had the resources and support to get treatment at a top facility. Unfortunately, too many Americans from all walks of life don’t get help, either because they fear the stigma or cannot afford treatment.”
It’s a crucial point. The stigma surrounding mental illness in this country is very real, and the stakes are high in this presidential election for the one in five Americans who will experience a mental illness this year. Access to affordable healthcare is under fire, as Republican nominee Donald Trump has promised to ask Congress for a full repeal of Obamacare on his first day in office.
Here’s where each presidential candidate stands on mental health:
Trump has shamed people for their mental health struggles, once threatening to “spill the beans” on Heidi Cruz, who experienced an episode of depression in 2005. He also shamed and fired a contestant on his show “The Apprentice” for exhibiting mental health issues. His ubiquitous Twitter presence suggests he doesn’t take mental health seriously, utilizing stigmatizing phrases like “mental basket case” to slam others.
Trump consistently blames mental illness for mass shootings, incorrectly correlating mental illness with violence against others and scuttling talk of gun reform in the process.
On the other hand, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has long called for mental health “parity,” or equal treatment of mental illness and physical illness in insurance coverage. She has also disparaged the mass incarceration of mentally ill prisoners.
“And please, please, let us put mental health back at the top of our national agenda,” Clinton said in a 2015 speech. “Our prisons and our jails are now our mental health institutions.”
Though the Affordable Care Act applied parity to all private insurance policies, studies show barriers to mental healthcare remain. The Democratic platform pledges to expand support for community health centers and close loopholes in parity regulations.
The Republican platform plans to address mental health by block granting Medicaid, meaning the federal government would give annual lump sums to states, who would run the program as they wanted. “Using block grants would allow states to experiment with different systems to address mental health and develop successful models to be replicated in states across the nation,” the platform reads. Trump’s position on Medicaid reform aligns with the Republican platform. However, Democrats argue that block grants offer no guarantee of continued Medicaid coverage for people who are currently covered, and states could scale back their Medicaid programs.
Overall, Clinton’s mental health efforts have earned Lovato’s support.
“I’m proud to support a presidential candidate who will fight to ensure all people living with mental health conditions get the care they need to lead fulfilling lives,” Lovato said. “That candidate is Hillary Clinton.”
Nevertheless, Lovato exhorted the DNC crowd to do more for Americans living with mental illness.
“I urge every politician to support laws that will provide better access to better healthcare and support for everyone,” Lovato said. “This is not about politics. It’s simply the right thing to do.”