Monitoring Candidates on Mental Health Access is Taking a Bit of Juggling
Juggling, it has been reported by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, has been found beneficial in treating mental health disorders stemming from injuries to the brain.
Hopefully, this is an omen. Could it be foretelling improved mental health access stemming from the 2024 elections? Because, so far, everyone–those running and those monitoring the runners–has been juggling! And juggling is beneficial.
It’s not child’s play to keep so many balls (or facts) in the air–trying to keep track of who the candidates are–who’s in, who dropped out, and why he or she dropped out. Which party does So-and-So represent today as opposed to yesterday, or is he or she currently “independent” without any party at all? And where does he or she stand on what issues, especially vital access to mental health care?
A perfect example of juggling is this loud headline in the January 21, 2O24, edition of AXIOS proclaiming,”Trump hints at possible vice presidential pick.” A paragraph follows, elucidating–in no certain terms–the fact that the former-President-now-Republican-forerunner-2024-candidate may or may not release the announcement in the next couple of months.
(Aside: The same edition of AXIOS rehashed the stepping down of Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis as a presidential candidate. He then threw his support to ex-president Trump, who had been his arch rival.
Yes, we have had to keep juggling the news events, while the politicians have been juggling their platforms and career ambitions.
Following is a roundup of news that will be of particular interest to those who agreed with candidate Nicki Haley when she said, “We have to make mental health a number-one priority.”
Back in November, USA TODAY ran a story headlined “Republican candidates are talking about mental health. Is there room for bipartisanship?”
This headline was followed by a photo of President Biden announcing that he was proposing new rules to boost mental health care.
The body of the story then began, pointing out that “in the days after a mass shooting roils the nation, lawmakers searching for solutions often point to the need for mental health care reform, even as others call for gun control.”
Gun Issue v Mental Health
It continued: “Last month, when a gunman who had been treated at a psychiatric hospital took the lives of 18 people in Lewistown, Maine, mental health took center stage again, particularly on the 2024 campaign trail.”
The article went on: “Candidates vying for the Republican nomination highlighted the tragedy, arguing that the next president must prioritize the mental health crisis in America.”
As mentioned above, President Biden announced he was proposing new rules to boost mental health care. He has proposed an overhaul of mental health insurance policies. He promised rules that would get insurers to pay mental health claims more often, although a “parity” (between physical and mental health payments) committee attempted unsuccessfully to accomplish this in 2008. The new committee is charged with seeking out loopholes “which leave patients with too few options in seeking mental health care covered by insurance.”
While one loophole allowed state and local governments to offer policies that did not have to comply with some rules, this has been closed. This means that 200 additional plans, covering 90,000 more people, will be covered for mental health care.
Reasons For Crisis
Why has mental health care become a top priority in the U.S. now? The reasons are both old and new: Alcohol abuse, drug addiction, COVID-19 and RSV (with ramifications of isolation, how to handle a new pandemic, disagreement on whether to handle it).
Also, there have been great advances in technology, such as brought social media into everyday life (causing depression that led to suicides among the young people in the audience as well as stars of the media, dubbed “influencers”).
The publicity surrounding the suicides of these young people, and especially those of the celebrities, engendered heightened public awareness of the need for recognition of symptoms and early intervention by mental health specialists.
Action–reaction, actually–came with the filing of federal lawsuits by 40 states against Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram. The suits alleged that the platform apps are designed to be addictive and harm children’s health.
Celebrities played another part in heightening awareness of mental health issues by coming out with public statements about how they were helped by therapy.
For example, Simon Cowell, entertainment giant, executive producer of and a judge on TV’s America’s Got Talent, spoke openly by having suffered from depression, but shrugging it off as an ordinary period of feeling down. After getting mental health therapy, he described himself as feeling “super positive.”
A recent poll revealed that nearly 75% of Americans are worried about their finances. And it’s no secret where worry and anxiety can lead. So score one more genesis of the crisis in mental health: living in an economy with a mounting cost of living.
In the worst scenarios, cities like Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, have witnessed gentrification-upgrading of property causing pockets of poverty. Average- or lower-income persons could no longer afford to live in their neighborhoods. This homelessness caused an outcrop of areas where, a witness exclaimed, “It’s become the biggest open-air drug market in the world! They’re selling on every street corner!” Use, too, is rampant, including the deadly opioid fentanyl.
Also accounting for the need for crisis-level planning and funding is an increased caseload to be serviced. Many new patients have been entering therapy, and many more are expected, because great strides in knowledge have been made in and by the mental health field itself. Thankfully, there now exist new means of identifying causes and symptoms that lead to the need for treatment, advances in psychopharmacology where medicines may be indicated, and the recognition that seeking help from trained practitioners is the first step in alleviating frightening symptoms.
Back To The Race
Returning now to the 2024 presidential campaign, we witnessed yet one more figurative ball pitched into the juggling game of politics. Again it involved Nicki Haley, the Republican presidential hopeful. She had said she would throw her support to Donald Trump if she ever dropped out of the race. But then she switched rhetoric. After an incident wherein the former president confused her with former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, she questioned his mental fitness.
Haley v Trump
Further, while being interviewed by a CNN reporter, she brought up Trump’s age (77). Lumping him together with President Biden (81), she inferred they were both too old to hold office.
By questioning Trump’s mental fitness, she brought back echoes of the raison-d’etre for the Goldwater Rule, although it applies only to psychiatrists. Here is the background:
In 1964, the presidential race was between Republican Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater and the incumbent Democratic president, Lydon B. Johnson. The editors of a magazine named FACT asked over 12,000 psychiatrists whether they thought Senator Goldwater was psychologically fit to serve as president of the United States.
The American Psychiatric Association reprinted a story analysis on its website. Written by Aaron Levin, it appeared originally in PSYCHIATRIC NEWS.
Following are the salient points:
Mind Boggling Terms
What can be described only as mind boggling were the terms bandied about by professionals who had never even met Senator Goldwater. The insults ran the gamut between the rather inane “insecure” to odious epithets such as “megalomaniacal,” “grandiose”” and schizophrenic.”
Assessing the situation, APA president Daniel Blain, M.D., wrote, “Tying political partnership to the psychiatric profession has in effect administered a low blow to all who would work to advance the treatment and care of the mentally ill of America.”
The final text of the Goldwater Rule reads: It is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.
In trying to forecast what impact the 2024 presidential election may have, and, conversely, what may impact the election itself, following are excerpts from an article in the January 25 CNN’s Politics section:
Issues (Partial List):
- Student loan forgiveness
- Order on the border, immigration
- War in the Middle East
- Supreme Court on abortion rights
- The Economy
- Foreign policy
- Affordable Care Act
- Medicare & Medicaid
- Social Security
- Health Care & Preventive Care
- Electric vehicles
On President Biden:
“Successful presidents constantly have to balance and mitigate the effect of actions they take in the national interest or to advance their own conflicting positions.”
Photo Caption, Trump Supporter
“‘Cause he pretty much can’t be bought.”
It will be up to the public to analyze all the facts it can (juggle), and then vote for the people whom they judge will best carry out their interests. Those who know, who may have experienced the value of mental health therapy, must put into office those who will make it even more accessible.
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