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Only 3 Mentions of Mental Health

June 30, 2015

It’s amazing to me that in one month, there have been 18 declared presidential candidates and 37 visits to Iowa. With each visit, the candidates highlight why they are the best fit for the office of president.  Why they are the most capable of caring for our country.  Yet, in that last month, between these 18 people and countless speeches, the topic of mental health has been mentioned three times.  Three times!!!

I have been charged with the task of monitoring the presidential campaign for the Iowa Cares – Hillcrest Mental Health Presidential Challenge.  Each day I come to work and check to see who has declared their bid and I count the number of daily visits. Then, I start searching the headlines in hopes of finding some mention of mental health. Anything! Almost every day I come up with nothing.  How can this be?

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that

·         1 in 4 adults – approximately 57.7 million Americans – experience a mental health disorder in a given year

·         about 1 in 10 children live with a serious mental or emotional disorder

·         Over 50% of students with a mental disorder age 14 and older drop out of high school

·         Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the US and the 3rd leading cause of death for people ages 10-24 years.  More than 90% of those who die by   suicide have a diagnosable mental disorder.

I could go on and on with staggering statistics. This begs the question, why is no one talking about mental health? Why is it still such a stigma in our society?

I am hopeful that because the race is still in its early stages that this will change. I hope that I can go home from work each day and tell my two boys “Guess what mommy learned at work today!  These people who want to run our country, they care about people.” Isn’t that the message we want to tell our young people?  Care for others. Help those who need help. Because you never know if one day, you might be the one who needs help. We all need to join together, be bipartisan and advocate for Mental Health.

Paula Paider Licht, Director of Mission Advancement, Hillcrest Family Services.