I am not going to declare who I am supporting for president (there are reasons as a Democrat for keeping my silence no matter who I am supporting) but I must speak up to the matter of Bernie Sanders and his use of mental illness as a pejorative against the Republican field. For the record, I have also written a letter to the White House after Obama made a comment about the Republican Congress being crazy — and I like Obama. A necessary quality for presidential candidates is the demonstration of humaneness. No leader should make any group an object of derision directly or indirectly. Bernie slipped up in the middle of the last debate and he slipped up big time:
The zinger tied Sanders’s support for mental health funding to the Republican field: “We are, if [I’m] elected president, going to invest a lot of money into mental health,” Sanders said. “And when you watch these Republican debates, you know why we need to invest in mental health.”
Excuse me, Senator Sanders? I live with bipolar disorder. I am a lifelong Democrat. And I resent being linked in any way to the Republicans. Donald Trump and his pals are crazy as a fox. The Tea Party/Randenoid ideology that drives them calls for total noncooperation with the president. While I appreciate your call to invest in mental illness care, I am suspicious of your reasons why. Do I detect the old lie that those who commit mass murder are sick in the head, a lie that the NRA has found useful in deflecting comment on gun violence in this country?
What are the real reasons for investing in mental health care? First, many people living with mental illness find themselves in poverty. This makes it difficult for them to become stabilized and remain that way. Improving their standard of living is key to returning them to the workforce. Second, Congress is considering whether to allow insurance companies to set up formularies which can keep patients from obtaining the medications that work best for them and force them to rely on inferior substitutes. Third, we can always rely on more education about what mental illness is all about so that people don’t have a knee-jerk reaction every time they see some bizarre behavior in the news. Fourth, there is a need for better medications with fewer, less loathsome side effects. Fifth, we need to continue to research ways to bypass the blood-brain barrier so that we can deliver medications at lower doses — reducing side effects — and, possibly, implement gene therapy.
These are the reasons why we need to focus on mental health — because mental illness makes the lives of those of us who have it and our families miserable, not because we pose a threat to the rest of society.