When the next U.S. president gets inaugurated next January, he or she will have an agenda and a vision for what our country needs. While there are plenty of issues to go around, mental health is rarely considered a “hot button” issue. In fact, it seems to only be brought up in the political sphere after a tragic shooting — leaving most of the 43.8 million Americans who live with a mental illness out of the conversation.
To get that conversation going, we asked people in our Mighty community living with mental illnesses to tell us one message they have for the next U.S. president.
Here’s what they want the future president to know:
1. “You have a powerful voice. Use your voice for good, not to perpetuate stigma and hate. Mental illness is not just a talking point or shorthand to insult people. Your opponent is not mentally ill for disagreeing with you. A flip-flopper is not bipolar. Mental illness affects 1 in 5 Americans. Your public. The people who you have taken an oath to preserve, protect and defend. Preserve us. Protect us. Defend us. All of us. Fund research. Fund programs. Get Americans the help we need, whether we have insurance or money or not. This is a matter of life and death. Save American lives. Make mental illness a priority.” — Danielle Hark
2. “Healthcare is a human right. Mental health issues are health issues and coverage for mental heath treatment needs to be included when we talk about healthcare.” — Kim Shilakes
3. “Stop using people with mental illness as a scapegoat when it comes to gun violence. We are much more likely to be the victims of violence.” — Sonia Faith
4. “The mental health system is extremely broken and needs a lot of care right now. Cheaper providers, medications, better hospitals, more research and more education for the entire nation. There is so much stigma attached to mental illness because people don’t understand it. And this won’t change unless people in the government step up.” — Kimberly Labine
5. “Mental health needs to be viewed as equally important as physical health.” — Sherrie Tyler
6. “It’s time to stop shoving mental illness into a dark closet — it’s time to actively end the stigma and give sufferers opportunities to get the best help they can. It’s not a joking matter, never has been.” — Ashley David Stevens
7. “If you care about citizens living with mental illness and want to help the state of mental health in America, please stop using stigmatizing language. Calling someone “crazy” or explicitly stating they have a mental illness contributes to the problems we all want to solve. People don’t seek help as much when mental illness is equated with being a bad person. Our conditions are serious health issues, not the butt of jokes.” — Nicole Campbell
8. “Please make mental healthcare and medication affordable! I had to forego my psych appointment and thereby my psych meds this month because I just don’t have enough money. I don’t qualify for benefits, but I don’t make enough money to buy insurance, so everything is self-pay. Due to this disaster, I may end up hospitalized.” — Terrie Karp
9. “Don’t wait until the next tragedy to talk about mental health and mental illness.” — Allison DeLuca
10. “The majority of those with mental illness do not want to be a burden on society; we want to be productive members of society. But if we can’t work due to our issues, we rely on the system to get us stable again. Please understand that if there is a chemical imbalance in the brain, it affects the whole body. But when we get the help to heal our brains, the body usually follows suit.” — Dena Rigby
11. “Mental illness should not have to be whispered about or talked about behind closed doors. It is an illness like any physical illness, and we deserve to be treated as such. Please help us in our daily fight instead of making things harder by ignoring us!” — Caitlin Hoechst
12. “When you talk about diversity and bringing people together, don’t forget about people with disabilties or mental illnesses. It makes me feel unimportant.” — Kristie Carlsen
13. “Mental health needs more funds for training for the police, parents, teachers and public agencies to help prevent tragedies.” — Montgomery Diaz
14. “People shouldn’t have to end up in prison to get treatment! Get this system right once and for all!” — Stephanie Aveytia
15. “I matter.” — Jenna Swearingen Hatfield
16. “Stand up and show people that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of.” — Celina Pulenskey
*Answers have been edited and shortened for brevity.