With the government, unless we are on the inside it can be hard to know exactly what our representatives are focusing on. This is also true with issues of mental health. Are they focusing on establishing more government programs for mental health? Will they fight to get more funding for mental health initiatives? What are they doing for people struggling with substance use disorder (SUD)? These are all reasons why we need to talk to government representatives about mental health.
The Importance of Mental Health Advocacy
Mental health advocacy on a personal level is crucial. Just like politics, real change often happens “on the ground” and at the local level. We are the ones who can make those changes.
People need mental health advocacy in the U.S. more than ever. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year, 1 in 20 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year, and 1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year.” Also, “Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-14.”
These are significant reasons why mental health advocacy is needed more than ever. This is why we need to talk to government representatives about mental health.
How to Connect With Government Representatives About Mental Health
Attempting to speak with government representatives about mental health can seem overwhelming. The important thing to remember is that government representatives work for us, not the other way around. However, they are not going to know what kind of work we want them to focus on unless we are vocal about it.
Knowing how to contact officials can be confusing. The good news is that government representatives are more available than we may think. All government representatives have official phone numbers and government emails by which they can be reached. However, it is true that the more local the official, the more “reachable” they tend to be. Yet, these are also the people who can have the most impact locally, and they are also the people who have connections to higher-ranking government officials.
How to Talk to Government Representatives About Mental Health
Talking to government representatives about mental health does not have to be overcomplicated. The first thing to remember is to come prepared and have both the facts and requests ready.
For example, it can be helpful to inform government representatives about statistics like the previous ones mentioned. It is also helpful to know what we want to get out of the conversation. Are we looking for mental health funding? Do we need more attention brought on mental illness affecting certain populations like veterans or LBGTQ+ identifying individuals? Do we want answers on what they are currently working on regarding mental health issues? Being upfront about what we want can make these conversations go much smoother.
Demanding Change but Also Understanding the Process
It is also important to note that we should not come into meetings with government representatives about mental health jaded or overly accusatory. Remember, most people in government are there to do right by their constituents. If they have overlooked mental illness in the community, it may simply be because they did not know of the issues or needs.
That is why we are here to help them understand the issues. We must also understand that our demands will most likely not be achieved right away. The government can move slowly, however, if we stay active mental health advocates, eventually, change will happen. Also, there are very concrete examples of this.
In 2023, the official Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) website posted the following:
We launched 988, the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, expanded mental health services in schools, advanced a center for excellence on social media and mental health, and launched the HHS Roadmap for Behavioral Health Integration. In addition, we have helped states to establish Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics which provide behavioral health care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week because mental health crises don’t just happen during business hours.
Therefore, change is happening, we just need to push to make sure it keeps happening.
The Phoenix Recovery Center: Non-Stop Mental Health Advocates
Here at The Phoenix Recovery Center, our mission is to help people achieve long-term recovery from mental illness and addiction. We also believe in pressing government representatives to help us in our mission.
Mental health advocacy is a mission best tackled together. We are here, always ready to do our part, and always ready to have others do it with us.