By Katrina Gay, NAMI Director of Communications
Much attention is being focused these days on politics and policy. From the GOP primary leading up to this fall’s presidential election to redistricting, the U.S. Supreme Court deliberation on the Affordable Care Act and the opening of many state legislative sessions across the country, 2012 promises to be a pivotal year for mental health care in America.
Amid all this activity, it is clear that we will have plenty of opportunities to share stories and messages, raise issues in the public discussion and influence the future direction of mental health care. As the new year begins, we at NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, encourage you to do your part to enhance candidates’ and policy makers’ understanding of mental illness. Here are a few ways you can help:
- Connect with Candidates. The combination of redistricting and elections challenge us to cultivate relationships with candidates and new policy makers. This is an important time for us to reach out, to illustrate how policies affect our lives and to let policy makers know about the issues that are important to us. To support this effort, NAMI offers mental illness fact sheets, issues fact sheets, state fact sheets and talking points—these are available and will be updated with the latest information to help you explain the need for mental health services and funding.
- Learn More. In 2011, NAMI released a series of reports on the state budget crisis that shows these cuts continue to threaten our already fragile mental health care system. The NAMI Grading the States report is another tool that continues to drive the debate. Use these to learn more about what is happening to funding of mental health services and our system of care for people living with mental illness in your state and across the country. Then, talk with candidates and policy makers about the need for services and supports that support real recovery for millions of Americans.
- Take Action. News unfolds quickly and information travel fast in 2012. Following NAMI on Twitter to help stay abreast of the daily mental health news and happenings and subscribing to receive our advocacy updates and alerts are ways that you can easily stay connected—from your computer or your smart phones. Daily and weekly postings and alerts will feature news related to the ever-changing political and policy climate, ensuring that you are well informed.
- Stay Tuned. NAMI will be launching a new Mental Health Care Gets My Vote website section and social media campaign dedicated to the elections. Liking NAMI on Facebook, following us on Twitter and bookmarking our website are good places to start to stay apprised of the campaign as it unfolds. Through these channels, voters and citizens will have access to the latest tools, information, discussions, community conversations and resources aimed to empower them to both enhance these relationships and encourage their voting process.
If advocacy is the process by which we aim to influence public policy and leadership decisions within our local, state and national community, we as NAMI and mental health advocates step confidently into 2012. Through our individual and combined efforts, we recognize this as a year full of opportunity for success and partnership as we strive to help ourselves and others and ensure that our country, from Main Street to the Capitol, is the best she can be for children, youth and adults living with mental illness and their families.