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The Presidential Debate: Where was Mental Health?

ARLINGTON, Va., Oct. 4, 2012 During the presidential debate on Wed. night, "mental health" and "mental illness" were words never spoken by President Obama or Governor Romney.

"The oversight leaves unexplored important mental health dimensions and distinctions," said Michael J. Fitzpatrick, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

"Nationally, the unemployment rate is 8.3 percent. Unemployed workers are four times as likely to experience mental health problems—at a time when the supply of mental health services has decreased because of state budget cuts and squeezes on Medicaid."

Even in the best of times, one in four American adults experience a mental health problem in any given year.

Another word left unspoken was "parity" in which employer-paid health insurance must cover mental illness on the same terms as other conditions.

The mental health needs of veterans weren't mentioned.

The debate did focus on broad issues or briefly touch on others important to individuals and families affected by mental illness.

  • Health insurance, coverage of preexisting conditions and prohibition of lifetime limits, either as they exist under current law or any repeal proposal.
  • Medicaid—including coverage for children with disabilities.
  • Education policy, including the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).
  • Appropriate agencies for federal job training.

"Yes, these are important issues," Fitzpatrick said. "Tell us more."

"Mental illness does not discriminate. It strikes Democrats, Republicans and independents alike. Our challenge to every voter is to study the issues closely. Look past the rhetoric. Weigh dueling numbers carefully. Apply that kind of scrutiny to every federal, state and local candidate."

NAMI's non-partisan Mental Health Care Gets My Vote campaign supports the following priorities:

  • Protect mental health funding.
  • Expand access to mental health coverage.
  • Ensure that effective mental health services are available.
  • Promote integration of mental health, addictions and primary care.
  • Improve the mental health of children, youth and young adults.
  • Meet the mental health needs of service members, veterans and their families.
  • Provide homes and jobs for people living with mental illness
  • Eliminate disparities in mental health care.
  • End inappropriate jailing of people with mental illness.

About NAMI

NAMI is the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.

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SOURCE National Alliance on Mental Illness


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