We’ve all been more than a little preoccupied with the omnipresent pandemic that is COVID-19. The United States has recently surpassed over 200,000 COVID-related deaths, many of us are juggling virtual schooling, caregiving, and remote or in-person work, and this week Pennsylvania and New Jersey have reported their highest case levels since late spring. The pandemic has shone a light on our society’s existing racial disparities in health care, in education, and in the workforce.
While our focus for this pandemic is primarily on stopping the spread of an infectious disease, we must also consider the implications for our mental health and well-being.
Every election carries critical implications for mental health policy, access to mental health care, and social supports for those who struggle with a mental health condition. Mental health is something that affects everyone, particularly during the current climate of financial uncertainty, pandemic-related anxiety, widespread grief and loss, and social isolation.
While one in four American adults will experience some type of mental health challenge in their lifetime, only 43% of adults will receive the treatment they need. The statistics for accessing care are more alarming when race is taken into consideration. Just 31% of Black adults with a mental health condition will receive treatment, compared with 49% of white adults.
Access to mental health treatment is only one concern of many that impact our nation’s mental health, and they should factor into your evaluations of health-care plans — including specific mental health initiatives — and other relevant policy positions of candidates on the ballot. Key mental health issues to consider when researching candidates and casting your vote include:
So many important issues fight for center stage when we think about elections: housing, taxes, education, foreign policy. While mental health hardly ever receives the attention it deserves, you are already voting on mental health when you vote on other key issues. Just as our mood and mental wellness impact our day-to-day routines, so too does mental health connect to every aspect of our institutions — hospitals, schools, policing, to name a few — in this country. It is impossible to separate mental health issues from other issues that we consider when casting our ballots.