Tomorrow we celebrate Independence Day and the guiding principle — “liberty and justice for all” — that our country was built upon. But in so many ways, this principle doesn’t match reality. Our educational, criminal justice, health care, and judicial systems are still operating based on the separation between physical and mental health. As a result, individuals living with mental health challenges don’t get the care they need.
The brain is an organ, like any other in our body. To maintain brain health we need preventative care, just like we do with our hearts and our bones. And when the health of our brain is imbalanced, we need to intervene early, and continually monitor to ensure we stay healthy. While science tells us this, we predominantly view mental health as separate from the rest of our health. Unfortunately, this is much more than just misunderstanding or mislabeling; it creates very real injustices and discrimination.
To change this reality of unequal treatment, discrimination, and misunderstanding around brain health, we must first change the conversation and think about this health crisis as a civil rights issue. If we adopt this mindset, then it will be impossible for us, as a country, to accept a health bill like the BCRA, which could jeopardize mental health services for so many. If we recognize that mental health care is a civil right, we’ll press harder for a system that covers disorders of the brain exactly the same way it does diseases like cancer or diabetes. As we express gratitude for our many liberties, let’s not be blinded by the bright and shiny sparks of light in the sky this fourth of July. These quotes from mental health leaders and advocates serve as an important and timely reminder that, while there is much to celebrate in terms of our freedom in this country, there is still a last frontier to cross. Let’s unite in reforming our unequal systems to safeguard mental health care for all.