Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton released a wide-ranging mental health plan on Monday, saying that her office would support Americans living with mental health issues through better legislation.
“The next generation must grow up knowing that mental health is a key component of overall health and there is no shame, stigma or barriers to seeking out care,” Clinton’s campaign stressed in an announcement.
Of course, candidate platforms rarely remain intact if they actually become policy after election day, but Clinton’s focus on normalizing mental health treatment reflects growing efforts to reduce the stigma and social pressures that keep people from getting help.
The proposed policies include increased funding for community mental health centers, investing in more brain and behavioral research and creating a nation-wide initiative for suicide prevention, which claims the lives of more than 40,000 Americans each year. The plan would require insurance companies to offer adequate coverage for psychiatric disorders, with a goal of improving access and affordability.
The plan also addressed the concerns of specific communities, calling for better police training on how to interact with those in crisis and aiming to tackle maternal depression and early intervention for children who may be experiencing psychological issues.
“The next generation must grow up knowing that mental health is a key component of overall health and there is no shame, stigma or barriers to seeking out care.”
The Clinton campaign’s comprehensive approach is receiving praise from the organizations that study these issues, mostly because its giving mental health a national spotlight.
“The detailed mental health plan outlined by Hillary Clinton is sweeping in nature and, if enacted, would greatly improve the nation’s mental health care system,” Maria A. Oquendo, president of the American Psychiatric Association, said in a statement. “All of these measures are huge steps in the right direction.”
Mental health = physical health
Perhaps the most encouraging part of the proposed policy is its holistic approach. Mental health conditions like depression and bipolar disorder aren’t just “moods” where a person can “snap out of it.” They have debilitating physical symptoms. Psychological disorders can cause changes in appetite, disrupted sleep patterns, headaches, changes in the brain, intestinal issues and more. They’ve also been linked to other conditions like heart disease and stroke.
In other words, changes in behavioral health deserve the same attention as changes in physical health.
“The brain and body are connected,” Sagar Parikh, associate director of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Depression Center, previously told HuffPost. “The bottom line is that treating mental health problems not only reduces individual pain but it actually has an impact on physical health.”
Why this agenda is so vital
Stigma around mental illness still persists, with many subscribing to the wrongheaded notion that struggling in this area is an indication of some sort of weakness or character deficiency. Those with mental illness are used as scapegoats for violence and other senseless crimes. And mental illness is seen as ammunition in political debates and fodder for teasing.
That’s why Clinton’s message is so important. It flips the narrative that has been so long embedded in society. It’s making a bold ― and accurate ― statement that a person’s illness doesn’t have to be visible in order to be seen. And it deserves the same amount of medical support.
“Too many Americans are being left to face mental health problems on their own, and too many individuals are dying prematurely from associated health conditions,” the Clinton campaign said in a statement. “We must do better.”
The Trump campaign has yet to release a formal plan for mental health reform.