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To the Political Leaders Who Address Mental Illness Without Care

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To Whom It May Concern,

You do not know me, but I am a young voter from a very small town in Ohio. It is a place where children can play freely, cut off from the rest of the word — or so it can seem. I grew up there, and it will always be home to me, full of the love and support I am thankful to have had. But the safe haven I have there has not shielded me from the soundbites, which I hear on television.

Although I’m quite certain you meant the words, “And when you watch these debates, you know why we need to address mental health,” in jest, you could not have been more wrong. For someone who works so hard at promoting equality amongst people, you have let down a very large, very important community. Your intention may have been to make an offhanded comment about the opposing party, but you neglected to consider the members of the community who live with mental illnesses. You did not consider they may not have appreciated you including certain candidates into their group simply because of some of the outrageous things that have come out of their mouths.

I have been a proud advocate of mental health awareness, of mental illness equality and of breaking down stigmas associated with mental illnesses. More than that, I am a member of that community you so brazenly mock. Some of the phrases you use are “lunatic,” “crazy person” and of course, that which I have mentioned above. You see, while it may be easy to openly criticize actions, such as mocking a physically disabled person, it is not as socially acceptable to openly discuss ways in which mental illnesses need to be treated with the same respect.

So here I am, a young woman from Ohio, asking you to consider the fact that while the words you speak may be coming from a well-intended place, you are furthering the stigmas and stereotypes which have plagued a branch of health and wellness for far too long. Instead of using the actions of the opposing party to get a few laughs, why don’t you focus on ways in which you will help the mental health community facilitate our own well-being in the face of misunderstanding and under-education? Perhaps then, you would be able to see why making jokes about mental health isn’t funny. It’s just plain rude.

Thank you.

Originally published: July 25, 2016
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