Mental Health Takes the Stage in Vice–Presidential Debate

Oct 6, 2016

On Tuesday night, mental health briefly captured the attention of millions of people who tuned into the vice-presidential debate.

Interrupting Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Governor Mike Pence’s (R-IN) back-and-forth, moderator Elaine Quijano of CBS asked the candidates how they would address the fact that police officers are often the last line of defense against a broken mental health system.

Elaine Quijano: After the Dallas police shooting, Police Chief David Brown said, quote, "We're asking cops to do too much in this country. Every societal failure we put it off on the cops to solve. Not enough mental health funding, not enough drug addiction funding, schools fail, let's give it to the cops." Do we ask too much of police officers in this country? And how would you specifically address the chief's concerns? Senator Kaine?

See the candidates' answers below.

Mental health has finally become a mainstream topic instead of a topic that is never raised. It is an issue that impacts all Americans, including police officers and first responders. When someone has a mental health emergency and doesn’t know where to turn, they call 9-1-1. Law enforcement agencies have become de facto first responders to people experiencing mental health crisis.

Since 1988, NAMI and our national network of local and state organizations have partnered with law enforcement agencies on Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) programs, which help law enforcement cope with these difficult calls for service and increase safety in these situations—for officers, individuals in crisis and bystanders.

We have a long way to go. Our next president and vice president can help.

Whether it’s in reference to criminalizing mental illness, access to health care or suicide rates, NAMI believes that mental health must be part of the national conversation during this election. After decades of marginalization, mental health care is being widely recognized as a public health crisis.

Mental health reforms will help all Americans become productive members of society who lead fulfilling lives. We applaud Quijano for making it a part of the conversation. Now it’s our turn to ask the candidates what they will do to improve mental health care in America–and to make sure our next debate moderators do the same.

What can you do?

Vote here to get a mental health question in the next Presidential Debate. 


Vice Presidential Candidate Answers



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