Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Mental Health: The Importance of Voting

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.


MegaDecaByte said...

Well said Zach!

MegaDecaByte said...

But I still think we have a long ways to go on mental health care insurance parity. There are a lot of loop holes and coverage gaps in the current laws. All the more reason to vote!

Anonymous said...

This is a good article. I was directly affected by budget cuts back in 2010. I lost all counseling and support and didn't know where to turn so I ended up homeless, skipping a ton of work and getting written up for it and in and out of ERs for cutting and needing stitches until finally I got admitted to a state hospital for almost 3 months. I finally got set up with more services and I'm constantly worried they'll get cut also before I can finish school since my mental health isn't strong enough to deal with stress of job and school at once.

Question though: I follow NAMI, but politics confuse the hell out of me. I don't vote because I never know who is for what. Where is a good place to find out?

Anonymous said...

GREAT Question!!!!
Anyone have the answer? I spend waaay too much on my insurance...raised premiums, self-pay Dr.'s .. & ridiculously high priced prescriptions!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: You're not alone: politics confuses the hell out of most people, especially politicians! But it's a fascinating maze, if you're willing to jump in. The League of Women Voters usually has excellent (and reasonably objective) information about candidates, ballot questions, party platforms, etc. I salute you for wanting to be an educated voter. Your town or city hall can help you with the logistical stuff, like where your polling location is, registration process/deadlines, the hours, etc. If you call the campaign of someone you're interested in, they will often arrange transportation if you need it. Happy Voting!

Tavy Day said...

Indeed. Awareness is key.

debby said...

I votef! I worked 30 yrs for the same company and then became disabled from cancer. I talked to my psych about it and he told me to never admit I was bipolar. He said what they define bipolar as, I don't have. I can't work but if I could;do you acknowledge it? I worked 30 yrs for same company and everyone was surprised when I was diagnosed but me in 2003. some still don't believe it. I screamed in pillows in closets and took rides beating on steering wheels. No one ever knew. They just knew when I would work a week with little sleep to get the job done. Or take a nose dive and barely get up for a month. They thought I was drained from over work. If they don't hire you; how can you get insurance and livelihood? If you don't acknowledge it; how will they ever be educated? I'm glad I had my job forever. I knew I needed it for physical and mental reasons.

Anonymous said...

You can check your local legislators record on how they have voted on issues such as mental health and insurance, ect. Just go to
Congressional records on the web and type in your lawmaker. Their voting record can be found. Traditionally Democrats are more into social programs than Republicans, who cut all social programs and the way they are talking, they want to axe everything including cutting Medicaid.

Tiff said...

The NAMI Now Newsletter/Email has an article about voting information called "Are You Registered to Vote for Mental Health?" The author talks about an organization called VoteSmart ( ) that publishes comprehensive info on candidates based on you zip code.

Anonymous said...

I've been in & out of the hospital several times and I'm so blessed to have private insurance and a supportive family. I know others on public assistance and they are always at the mercy of the government. The government doesn't seem to take care of them very well. The facilities are often sub par and the staff unorganized (just think about the department of motor vehicles for example!). I think the gov should get out of the healthcare business all together and let charities pick up the uninsured. It seems like the American Red Cross & the Salvation Army are respected for instance (these are just examples of effective charities not necessarily capable of taking care of all healthcare).

I get very anxious & concerned when I'm trying to get someone care through public assistance. I really don't like to leave them there. I will find ways around the gov and into private care and charities.

Anonymous said...

Amen! What really disturbs and astounds me is that even NAMI folks are going to vote Republican and we even have some who are tea party supporters. Do they even realize that without a huge security net our loved ones will flounder. (to put it mildly)