For the fall of the 2016 Presidential campaign, I’m reviewing the candidates’ policies on mental health, a topic close to my heart, as a practicing Licensed Professional Counselor. I’ve been slugging away in the trenches for quite some time. In addition, mental health is an important issue for us all as citizens of the world…as depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.
(For this longest election cycle ever, I’ve had to use my mindfulness, emotional regulation and news fasting skills this fall as my sanity is important to me.) Sigh..ok, moving on…
I’ll review Mrs. Clinton’s Comprehensive Agenda on Mental Health first, as she actually has this on her website to review.
HRC’s comprehensive policy is, well, staggering in its complexity and comprehensive-ness, if you will. Mrs. Clinton has a mastery of the facts about the state of the mental health system in the US today that is staggering in its scope and in the complexity of the details. Mental illness and mental health care is, in reality, staggeringly complex. There are so many nuances and levels to this topic. She covers them all. Read it here.
I’ll review Mr. Trump’s view on mental illness next, but just between you and me, as far as I can see, he doesn’t seem to have a policy on mental health in America. I’ve seen him discuss the state of peoples’ mental health in Tweets using disparaging names that I thought everybody stopped using in the 50’s….so I guess that’s the extent of it???. …not sure, but I’ll look into it and let you know next time what I find……enough of that for now.
I’ll pick out a few of the HRC position highlights that I really like and know are needed and wanted by both users and professionals of the mental health system alike.
1. #MentalHealthAwareness #EndtheStigma
There’s a grassroots movement collectively growing from individuals living with a mental illness who are coming out of the closet in order to raise awareness that mental illness is an illness, not a choice, just like physical illness. There is treatment. They are fighting to end the stigma around mental illness. They don’t want to be defined by their diagnosis. They are full, functioning human beings.
Mrs. Clinton states that, as President, she “ will convene a White House Conference on Mental Health during her first year …with the goal that …Americans will no longer separate mental health from physical health when it comes to access to care or quality of treatment. 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.”
There’s an enormous grassroots movement to raise awareness about the signs of suicide and to allow conversation about suicide. This populous groundswell has created September as #SuicidePrevention Month.
Mrs Clinton states that she will “Create a national initiative around suicide prevention across the lifespan that is headed by the Surgeon General: As president, Hillary will move toward the goal of “Zero Suicide”….and create …evidence-based suicide prevention and mental health programs in high schools.college campuses and for veterans and the LGBT population.
During the Reagan administration, there was a defending and subsequent closure of many mental illness institutions. The plan was to replace these institutions with Community Mental Health Centers. But, Congress never followed through with the planning and funding for sustainable community mental health centers, leaving a terrible gap. There is an enormous need for community mental health centers to serve the mentally ill. There’s a sad patchwork of places to which to refer people who need treatment for severe and persistent mental illness. There is literally NO WHERE for people to go. People are constantly talking about the lack of and the closing of their community mental health centers.
Mrs. Clinton states that she”..supports the creation of high-quality, comprehensive community health centers in every state…. She cites a 2014 8 -state demonstration program of in eight states, whereCertified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) were established. This model would be propagated throughout the 50 states.
4. #ShortageMentalHealthProviders #MentalHealthParity
There’s a shortage of psychiatrists in the country. Why? Well, this brings me to an issue close to my heart: the small reimbursements for mental health treatment by health insurance companies (which have healthy profit margins) as mental health is treated as a side dish not the main course. This forces mental health providers to move to a cash payment model, meaning that only the rich will be able to afford mental health care, including psychiatrists and counselors. This is dangerous for society as a whole. Not good at all. Insurance companies treat the mental health part of their plans like an add-on and offer little real coverage.
Mrs. Clinton states that she will work to “Enforce disclosure requirements so that insurers cannot conceal their practices for denying mental health care….” and to enforce parity in insurers’ systems. This is much needed.
5. #EvidenceBased #OpenData
Another important concept I think is needed is the idea that the brain and its disorders need a unifying idea of research and study with a movement towards sharing of research data across global partnerships. Mrs.Clinton supports One Mind and the Human Connectome Project as models of research and partnership in studying the human brain in order to move forward in treating and healing brain disorders. I’d never heard of the organizations until I read HRC policy statement. Awesome details.
Mrs. Clinton’s strategies and positions on Mental Health care are knowledgeable, broad and deep. It’s great she is shedding awareness on mental health and that she has such a grasp of the issues in great detail. Moving forward, hopefully there will be a way to actually get this work done in our United States.
Next time, I’ll review Mr. Trump’s mental health policies (if I can find them).