I’ve been struggling. Struggling about what to write for the blog when, all of a sudden, it occurred to me that the answer was right in front of my face: the election. What does the election have to do with my depression, you ask? Everything. On the surface we have seen what is arguably the most insane—in both the literal and figurative, and I would even gamble clinical—sense of the term insanity.
Much of the research points to the fact that this election, for the first time ever, will be decided on individual issues more so than traditional party lines. So it occurred to me take some time this weekend to do some unscientific research on how each of the candidates stack up with respect to mental health issues.
What I found depressed me.
First and foremost, I looked for an article to substantiate that the US does, in fact, care about mental health. Regardless of party lines, or if we talk about it or not. The ADAA released a study in September that found “nearly 90 percent of Americans value mental health and physical health equally, yet about one-third find mental health care inaccessible, and more than four in 10 see cost as a barrier to treatment for most people.” Furthermore, it found “nearly half of Americans think they have or have ever had a mental health condition (47 percent), yet fewer than two in five have received treatment (38 percent).”
So that was enough for the light bulb to go off. Let’s see how publicly our candidates are addressing something that is of value to the American people. Here’s how I did it. I want to remind you I am not a data scientist, statistician or anything like that. What I did was conduct a search of the keyword “Mental Health” of each of the likely candidates’ official websites.
So… I essentially dug 800% deeper than the the average voter would do before they click on the “Donate” button of any of these sites. The 800% represents a “TIMSCORE 2016” unsubstantiated data point I just made up based upon the soundbites on TV and the reaction to John Oliver’s “Make Donald Drumpft Again” YouTube plays. Suffice to say you are already like, “Whoa, okay Tim, I wouldn’t have gone that deep into this blog post.” You’re right, and many of you reading this are in the ad business, which essentially lives or dies by the numbers.
And well hey, if Donald Trump’s PolitiFact conclusion is that 76% of his statements are “Mostly False, False, or Pants on Fire” of the 77 statements checked… well, then I feel pretty confident that I did 800% more work than the average voter when visiting a candidate’s site. So if you don’t like the math, then… well, okay, do the math. It’s an index of more than 100, I am certain of that. It’s math, people. I really like math, I’m good at math, people say I’m good at math, believe me.
Okay, a couple more disclaimers. I am a self-selected independent, and I am currently confused beyond belief about what is happening with this election cycle. If you asked me right now who I would vote for, I would say Bloomberg, but he broke our dreams by correctly deducing the right decision was to not run. Because Mike also does math, and technically he couldn’t win… sigh. I’m pouring a little Cab off to my homie Bloombizzle as I type. We miss yah, Mike!
So what I did was isolate the candidate domains at the root level:
Okay no, wait… I didn’t do that initially.
What I did was visit each of their sites and then clicked their issues tab. I searched through their top-line “issues” for Mental Health. Here’s the problem: It yielded me very little. Like, not a lot… like, here’s what I found searching for mental health issues… the word “fundaMENTAL.” Bigger sigh.
Where I did find consistency was with respect to 2nd Amendment rights for both the Republicans and Democrats who essentially are arguing the extent of background checks but universally appear to agree that guns should not be in the hands of severely mentally ill. Okay, crossing the aisle I guess, but nobody took a stance other than “the mentally ill should not have guns,” to which I think most people would fundaMENTALly agree.
The second consistency was with respect to our veterans, and while you did have to dig—and again, soundbite statement folks—they address mental health, specifically PTSD. But nobody bothered to elaborate on what that means. They just said we should treat our veterans with some respect and dignity, which we all know the LIPF supports wholeheartedly and actually has attempted to do something about it by supporting veterans by funding programs that provide PTSD resources to veterans.
So saddened with this initial finding. The average voter who may be impacted by mental illness will not find any of their candidates saying anything specific about mental health other than “our Vets deserve it” and that the severely mentally ill should not have guns. I wondered who is speaking on our behalf? If this election is going to be won on issues, then mental health—the thing 90% of us agree is as important as physical health—does not have a top-line winner or a champion for mental health, depression, and suicide prevention.
All candidates are assigned -1 point for saying nothing at all. Gryffindor, however, gets 2 points for the Quidditch match and for catching the “Snitch.”
So where was I? Oh, that’s right. So after wasting my time doing that, I realized that there has to be some mention of mental health deeper in these websites. Now, as mentioned earlier, I did 800% more work than the average voter, but you know what? I’ve also got work to do, like watch House of Cards, play The Division on XB1, update my Bitmoji to match what I am wearing today, and all the other stuff we proud Americans do on a daily basis. SO… I figured out how to site-level search websites by making my Google search only look for specific words on a candidate’s website. For my nerds out there, entering the following syntex into a Google search you can essentially google a particular domain: Enter the keyword you want to find such as “mental health site:candidatesdomain.com” into the search bar, and voila! You can isolate the content you want inside of the candidate’s website.
Here’s what I found. (NOTE: I am going to put them in alphabetic order by last name as I am electing to be non-partisan and fair since I don’t have any skin in this game yet. Also, it should be noted: ALL candidates created only ONE PAGE of search results when using the search term “Mental Health”… SUPER SIGH. To put that in perspective, the search term “People holding lollipops and ice cream in the same picture” yielded 871,000 results in 0.76 seconds.
All candidates yielded less than ten references of “Mental Health” pages in all the searches. So here we go, alphabetically….
Clinton – mental health site:hillaryclinton.com
- Ten records
- She addressed PTSD when asked by a high school student. The response is in a video clip—no clear policy.
- Most of her mentions about mental illness are tied directly to drug and alcohol addiction.
- Addresses mental health and non-violent drug offenders in prison – retraining the police and prison guards
- Specific discussion around mental health parity laws (I will address mental health parity later)
- Calls out better service for mental health as a result of the Affordable Care Act
Cruz – mental health site:tedcruz.org
- Cathy Costello – supporter of Cruz whose husband was murdered by their mentally ill son
- One page – no direct endorsement by Cruz, only that people around say he is fighting for mental health
- Six mentions of mental health total on the site
- It does appear he has authored some legislation in support of mental health; however, it is not addressed on his site. Which is sad, because it does appear he has taken action in support of mental health.
Kasich- mental health site:johnkasich.com
- Claims Ohio investment into mental health services
- I couldn’t determine, outside of his being Governor, what roll he played. There is a picture of him signing something, but it is unclear.
- Fiscal Conservative who spends on safety net, including mental health
- Lots of alignment between mental health and addiction treatment to what extent: unknown
- He is the only candidate so far as I can tell who directly calls out mental illness in his “About John.”
Rubio – mental health site:marcorubio.com
- Four total mentions on the site
- Mostly 2nd Amendment rights; mentally ill should not have guns
- One mention of mental health was buried in an ISIS-positioning message and was aligned with “mass shootings” in the US.
- US+ Mental Health + ISIS = ?
Sanders – mental health site:berniesanders.com
- Mass shootings and need for mental health parity
- Police training for handling people who suffer from mental health issues
- Better benefits in universal healthcare to include mental health
- Only person to mention HIV in addition to substance abuse and access to mental health services
- Is said to be supporting holding HMOs responsible for not complying with parity; no proof on the site that is happening or what that actually means
- Medicare for all, including mental health parity
- Substance abuse alignment with jails and their usage as profit centers for keeping people in, not out; not addressing mental health treatment
Trump – mental health site:donaldjtrump.com
- Mental health around 2nd Amendment rights
- PTSD – anti-stigma and veterans, supports them
- Reform Obamacare and somehow mental health
- VA reform for better access to services by our veterans
Again, to be fair, I am not saying these candidates do not support mental health. There are indications that they all have a position on mental health, predominantly with veterans and with respect to background checks with gun ownership.
But the exercise for me was: Can I determine a candidate’s position on mental health using the site as the average voter does? The answer to that, for me, is top-line NO. And more importantly for me was outside of the obvious—that we should not hand guns to the mentally ill and that our veterans deserve better treatment—you really had to dig to find what, in addition to the soundbites I think we all agree on, differentiates them.
I essentially found only that the Dems will address parity and the Republicans appear to be avoiding it, most likely because they want to reform the Affordable Care Act. It appears the Dems think MHPAEA won’t exist without Obamacare, which I think is a bit misleading, but at least they are addressing parity.
Now I said I was going to address Mental Health Parity Act (MHPA) because it is a piece of legislation that has been in place since 1996 and was superseded by the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA), which was a rider on the Troubles Asset Relief Program (TARP) in 2008. (Hint: TARP has something to do with the housing bailout.) Which means both the Democrats and Republicans backed these endeavors.
You can go on Wikipedia and do your own homework, but essentially it equates to this: MHPAEA “prohibits all group health plans that offer mental health coverage from imposing any greater limit on co-pays, co-insurance, numbers of visits, and/or number of days covered for hospital stays due to mental health conditions.”
In English, a visit to your therapist/psychiatrist/psychologist should essentially be the same as seeing your GP, your OB-GYN, your kid’s pediatrician, and if you are in need of some mental “surgery,” then you get the surgery, get the inpatient/outpatient treatment, and are not penalized any moreso than going to see the doctor because you have the flu.
Imagine if you went to see your OB-GYN, and they said, “Sorry, you didn’t meet your deductible,” and your ovary explodes, and you can no longer have children. Imagine if you brought your kid in for the chicken pox, and your kid died because he or she was over their annual visits, and you had to pay out-of-pocket but couldn’t. MHPAEA is law. Yet nobody is enforcing it, and every day somebody who is suffering from mental illness is denied their legal right to equal treatment, or are attempting to get help but can’t afford it.
We are denying our own citizens of this country, rich or poor, access to legitimate medical services that have been written into legislation by both the Republicans and Democrats. When you wonder why there are mass shootings and why our veterans are coming home with mental health conditions and PTSD, remember at the root of all this is “nearly 90 percent of Americans value mental health and physical health equally, yet about one-third find mental health care inaccessible, and more than four in 10 see cost as a barrier to treatment for most people.” Yet we have laws/acts that say otherwise: Obamacare, Medicaid… I don’t care what system you support, the law says mental illness is real and that the treatment should be the same as any other healthcare you receive.
Vote whomever you want this year, I have no skin in this game other than to say when I dug deep into the issues, there was one major commonality between all the candidates this year. They all admitted there was a problem with mental health in their own ways, but none of them could demonstrate an actionable plan to enforce something that is already in place and agreed to by both parties.
That, ladies and gentlemen, concerns me. I think you should be concerned, as well, because like cancer, mental health can impact any family, any race, any gender, any religion, and any household income in this country. And when it does—and it will—you will then learn what it feels like to be a second-class citizen in your own country who is attempting to build a very big wall between you and them.