By Zach D. Edgerton
Being a person living with mental illness, I know the importance of voting.
Legislators and politicians have an important stake in the quality of life for those of us with mental illness. Between now and Election Day, Nov. 6, let’s show them clearly that mental health care gets our votes.
There was a time when I was severely ill, not being able to function at anything. I would lie in my bed all day, barely leaving my house. I couldn’t go to school or work. I had no social life. I was scared, isolated and discouraged. I needed help.
Legislators and politicians have a strong influence on whether or not a person with mental illness recovers. Legislators and politicians make laws and determine the amount of spending for mental health care. Much of this funding is directed towards Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security income and Social Security Disability Insurance programs.
Without the funding for Medicaid, I would not have been able to afford the hospitalizations that I needed to restore my mental health. After my hospitalizations, I needed counseling and medication.
Without the funding for Assertive Community Team (ACT) services through Medicaid, I would have never been able to access my needed therapy. Without the funding for Medicare, I couldn’t have been able to afford my medications, which initiated remarkable progress of my mental health.
Without the Social Security Income program and the Social Security Disability Insurance program, I would have been unable to afford to live when I was so ill that I could not work.
Legislators and politicians have also influenced mental health parity, which makes it mandatory that mental health coverage in health insurance plans is no more limited than primary health care. Clearly, this was essential to recovering and having a greater hope for my future.
Legislators and politicians have influence on funding for research on mental illness and housing for those struggling with mental illness. Research leads to innovations in state of the art medications. Housing has always been important to me, being integrated into the community and asserting my independence in society.
I fear to think of where I would be without the needed funding for mental health care. Mental illness left untreated commonly results in unemployment, social isolation, homelessness and incarceration.
Though there is no cure for mental illness, recovery is always available to people living with the challenge of mental illness. Today I can say that I have been employed, graduated from high school and college, lived in the community, and have a bright future. Without proper mental health care funding, none of this would have been a possibility.
It is important that people with mental illness vote. Legislators and politicians have a great influence on the possibility of recovery that everyone struggling with mental illness deserves and is entitled to.
Zach Edgerton is a member of NAMI Michigan, the NAMI Consumer Council Advocacy Committee and the NAMI Restraint and Seclusion Committee.