As the United States enters its election season full-swing, it’s time to look at the candidates’ positions on mental healthcare in America. First up is Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president. Throughout the campaign, Trump has said very little about mental illness and what he would do to help change the conversation of mental health in America.
But what he has said speaks volumes.
What Trump Proposes Through His Policy Statements
More than one in five Americans suffers from a mental illness, most of it undiagnosed and untreated. Out of those 1 in 5, less than 20 percent seek out and receive treatment. There are many reasons treatment is so underutilized, but at least one stands out: access to care. This is something that the Affordable Care Act (the ACA, passed in 2010) has helped millions of Americans with.
How does the ACA help? First it benefits millions of people who have a pre-existing condition, because the law made it illegal to discriminate against people and deny them care under this situation. Second, it has helped over 20 million Americans who couldn’t previously afford care to gain mental health treatment coverage.
First among Trump’s priorities (after he apparently builds a wall that a tunnel, boat, or airplane will easily defeat) is to completely and 100 percent repeal “Obamacare,” which is political partisan-speak for the Affordable Care Act. That takes away healthcare coverage for those 10+ million Americans. And it takes away the preexisting condition component of the law, allowing insurance companies to once again discriminate against anyone with an existing mental health condition.
Besides repealing the ACA, Trump has only three sentences on his website about mental health:
Finally, we need to reform our mental health programs and institutions in this country. Families, without the ability to get the information needed to help those who are ailing, are too often not given the tools to help their loved ones. There are promising reforms being developed in Congress that should receive bi-partisan support.
Wow, that’s really helpful. We need to “reform” them? Reform them how? With what money? For what purpose or end goal? Talk about vague…
But we have some inkling where his priorities lie — not with people who have mental illness, but instead their families. It echoes the original version of Rep. Murphy’s disastrous bill called “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act,” which originally did away with patient privacy protections in the name of “helping families.” What about helping patients?
Clearly, Trump believes that people with mental illness can’t think for themselves. Or vote.
What Trump Has Said
What a politician actually says probably matters just as much as anything else, since we rely on the individual to carry through on his policy positions. If he’s not a person whose word you can trust, there’s little chance he’s going to make good on his policies.
Trump’s past year of tweets gives us a lot of insight into his thinking around mental illness and people who suffer from one of these conditions. We don’t have to look far to find that in March of this year, Trump apparently threatened another Republican candidate in exposing his wife’s depressive condition by suggesting he would be “spilling the beans.” This clearly suggests Trump finds mental illness to be something that should be hidden and kept secret (and potentially used as political fodder against your enemies if the need arises).
How does he feel about a person seeking out treatment by seeing a psychiatrist or other mental health professional for help?
It makes me feel so good to hit "sleazebags" back — much better than seeing a psychiatrist (which I never have!)
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 19, 2012
Worst than hitting “sleazebags” back, I guess. The fact this is the level of discourse he’s having about mental illness is telling.
He wouldn’t use mental illness as an insult to other people, right? I mean, we’re in the 21st century and we understand these are not personal failings. And so if’s not a personal failing, how can you use it as an insult? Would he dream of using such labels if they were associated with cancer?
Failing host @glennbeck, a mental basketcase, loves SUPERPACS – in other words, he wants your politicians totally controlled by lobbyists!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 29, 2015
Ah, “mental basketcase.” Yup, definitely a person who understands the complex issues involved in mental illness. He is clearly sensitive to those people living with mental illness everyday.
Of course, apparently all you need do is disagree with Trump to get the “crazy” label:
If crazy @megynkelly didn't cover me so much on her terrible show, her ratings would totally tank. She is so average in so many ways!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 19, 2016
Oh, and if you’re crazy, apparently you’re also average.
I understand it can be simple to think that you can just throw around words like “crazy” and “basketcase” without really meaning anything by them. But if you’re running for one of the most powerful offices in the world, I can’t help but believe you should think more thoughtfully about how you use all of those wonderful words available in your vocabulary. If a man is as great as he claims, he should demonstrate it a little more clearly through his behavior.
Trump: Clearly Not an Advocate for People with Mental Illness
What Trump has shown through both his policy statements and his personal statements is that he has little respect for people with mental illness. While he says he wants to help their families, he hasn’t said anything about actually helping patients with mental health concerns (other than through vague “reform”).
His apparent threat against another candidate to expose his wife’s mental health concerns is telling. As are his casual insults on Twitter using labels like “crazy” and “basketcase” — labels that clearly demonstrate a person out of touch with mainstream America — one where 1 in 5 people suffer from a mental illness.
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