We praise and, in fact, incentivize preventative care for children, adults and our seniors, such as the annual visit to a GP for a "physical." Why not do the same for efforts to keep the brain healthy? We also need to start talking openly about mental health the way we talk about other health issues. Join the conversation.
In 1963, Congress passed President Kennedy's Community Mental Health Act, and a few years later, Medicare and Medicaid designated funding for the community services mentioned in the bill. Now, nearly 50 years later, lawmakers in both houses are considering bipartisan bills that would reform mental health care in America.
The best description that I can come up with is that it's like a parasite that attaches itself to your mind and grows and grows and slowly infects every aspect of your life. It's like a slow, unceasing progression. It starts in your thoughts, then your behavior, then your personality, and soon, it messes up your relationships with other people.
Even still, talking about these things allows everyone to be on the same page. If I had known that my mother was actually suffering from a mental illness then I may have been better able to recognize the signs she was clearly showing before she took her life. I may not have been able to stop her, but I would have been given the opportunity to try.
Some people think science is dry or boring and has nothing to do with their lives. Still more believe that science has become so complex that politicians are incapable of talking about it, that no one but scientists can discuss it. But science is now so integral to every aspect of our lives that it has to be talked about by those who wield power.
Let's hope that political rhetoric this time around reaches a higher standard. A good start indeed would be for candidates at every level to take the stigmafree pledge. It's simple to do and would be a good start for continuing the national conversation about mental health care policy throughout campaigns as they unfold.