I was listening to the news when one of the Presidential candidates said something that really disappointed me. I won’t say who it was or what was said, but it caused me to wonder about the mental health policy positions of our next President and prompted me to write each candidate asking the following questions.
#1 – How many persons who openly disclose having a disability are employed as part of your campaign team? What is the nature of their responsibilities?
#2 – Do you support the issuance of an Executive Order, which violates the civil rights of persons with psychiatric disabilities, utilizing the Social Security Administration’s Representative Payee database to report the names of persons with psychiatric disabilities (who have requested assistance in managing their finances) into the National Instant Criminal Background Check system to prevent firearm purchases? If elected President, what action would you take to modify or revoke such an Executive Order?
#3 – If elected President, what specific mental health legislation do you want Congress to send to your desk for signature into law?
#4 – Everyone has voice, but not everyone is heard. If elected, what efforts would you make to insure that persons who have previously or presently participate in healthcare and human services are heard?
#5 –Peer Specialists (also known as Recovery Support Specialists) who work in emergency departments are proven to reduce the number of psychiatric hospital admissions. What measures, if any, would you implement to expand the role of Recovery Support Specialists for improved outcomes in healthcare, housing, justice and other settings?
#6 – People diagnosed with psychosis, bipolar mood disorder and moderate-severe depression die twenty-five years sooner than the general population. What interventions do you believe are necessary to minimize and eliminate premature death?
#7 – In what capacities would your administration work with faith communities to address mental health equality and related social justice needs in local communities?
#8 – Name a movie you have seen portraying a character with mental health challenges and write a brief review. Share your impressions and insight from the film.
I asked them to respond by Friday, January 22, 2016 and I will post all replies on this site. This gives them two weeks, but I hope to hear from them much sooner. Historically, candidates for public office have spent an inadequate amount of time discussing mental health. I hope this is the year that changes. I hope these eight questions will jumpstart a conversation that is long overdue.
Photo taken by AJ French during her 2014 visit to the White House for a briefing on Suicide Prevention.