In This Election Especially, Americans Must Change The Mental Health Stigma

Most politicians have a horrible tendency to suffer from foot-in-mouth disease.

In fact, it almost seems as if it might be a job requirement for them. It becomes especially obvious during election season, when the pressure is on to deliver the best responses during debates in order to win those oh-so-precious votes.

We almost expect them to say the wrong thing— we watch the debates with our phones glued to our hands, ready to tweet the best lines of the night, just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

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Even still, it’s pretty disappointing when the ones we regard as being “with it” on the issues that matter most to us make comments that have the potential to be incredibly damaging to entire groups of people.

At last Sunday’s Democratic debate, Bernie Sanders commented, “You know, we are, if elected president, going to invest a lot of money into mental health. And when you watch these Republican debates, you know why we need to invest in that.”

What’s worse than his poor choice of words is the chorus of laughs the comment received from the audience, the moderators, and even fellow candidate Hillary Clinton.Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 3.38.57 PM

In a world where Donald Trump is leading in the Republican polls, the GOP debates sure have been pretty fun to watch.

Here’s the thing, though: 18.2% of American adults suffer from some type of mental health issue, like bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and more. For the millions of Americans living with thScreen Shot 2016-03-10 at 3.39.33 PMese disorders, mental health is no joke at all.

It’s easy to look at any of the candidates, listen to their views and their ideas, and label them as “crazy” if we don’t agree with them. We’ve surely all been guilty of it at some point of this election cycle.

The problem is, the word “crazy” isn’t synonymous with mental illnesses, and using it as such is hugely harmful—especially when it’s being used to describe the bigotry and bullying that we might be seeing from certain individuals on the Republican side.

There’s already an enormous stigma surrounding mental health in America. Comparing serious and actual mental health issues to the general craziness of the election season and using it as a punch line to win some votes only perpetuates that stigma.

I’m totally with Bernie on this issue. Mental illness is, for the most part, overlooked in America’s healthcare system. We absolutely need to be investing more in mental health, not just to help those already living with these disorders, but so we can work together to reduce the stigma and stop trivializing what is actually a tremendous issue.

image via Kelly Marcelo 

Kelly Moseman

Editorial Contributor, American University Major: Public Communication Her heart belongs to: Sunday mornings, One Direction, hazelnut lattes, warm weather, and her white Converse high-tops You can find her: creating new playlists on Spotify, watching videos of puppies on YouTube, and trying to find the right Instagram filter

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