As Facebook is quick to remind us, October is devoted to pumpkin carving, drinking apple cider and posting pictures snuggled up with significant others. Unfortunately, Facebook seems to have forgotten that just earlier this month was Mental Health Awareness Week. In fact, it’s not just Facebook that’s neglecting to raise awareness. America seems to have forgotten as we allow Trump and Washington to take rather “unorthodox steps” to celebrate.
Earlier this month, Congress unceremoniously failed to renew the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP (an organization that gives coverage to 9 million low-income children) amidst the distracted public whose priorities were set on the latest drama abroad.
Fear not fellow Americans! If Kim Jong Un doesn’t kill us, Trump most certainly will. Just days ago, he announced his plans to eliminate subsidies to health insurance companies that help low-income, out-of-pocket payers. This was announced just hours after signing an executive order that gives cheaper policies with less protection and benefits to its recipients.
All these steps align with the President’s proposed cuts announced in May, which included a $400 million dollar cut from mental health and substance abuse institutes along with a $616 billion dollar cut from Medicaid and CHIP over the course of ten years; thus making it harder for low-income, mentally ill individuals to afford healthcare. To top it off, Republicans have proposed cutting $374 million dollars from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Meanwhile, reports have stated the mental health parity as part of the Affordable Care Act isn’t being enforced, meaning insurance companies aren’t offering the same coverage for mental health issues as they are physical issues. This is a problem because it ends with insurance companies denying access to treatments for life-threatening conditions.
The lack of buzz surrounding Mental Health Awareness Week comes at a shocking time considering Trump’s latest actions in relation to the state of the country. In response to the mass shooting in Las Vegas, which was deemed ”the deadliest mass shooting in US history.”
Trump responded via twitter by calling the man “a demented, sick individual” with little regard to the underlying problem. Instead, we focus on external issues of terrorism when the greatest culprits come from within our country and systematic framework.
This tendency to look for and blame external factors has become an unaddressed issue as our attention looks away from the problem, rather than within its own borders. (Don’t you miss the days when Republicans were set on isolating themselves) because now we have a man hundreds of psychologists have deemed mentally unfit running our country and making a mockery of foreign diplomacy.
John Hendrickson tweeted, “Every single therapist I know is currently treating Trump Anxiety Disorder.”
This comes at a time when suicide has become the second leading cause of death to individuals ages 10-34 (surpassing homicide) and the second leading cause of death among teens.
This brings us to the final question of “what can we do?”
To start, you can become an advocate and a voice to marginalized populations whose well-being is threatened. You can speak to your representatives and express your ethical belief in ensuring health care coverage is a birthright. Even if you aren’t personally affected by mental health, it’s safe to say you have a fellow neighbor who is. By recognizing that your privilege doesn’t extend to everyone, you can be an ally for those who don’t benefit from the system in the same way you do. And finally, think about mental health awareness and recognize its impact on people. October can be a time to post cute pictures and drink pumpkin spice lattes but allowing yourself to only see through a filter isn’t seeing the world holistically. Speak to those who experience mental health issues and learn to empathize and offer support in whatever way you can.