Biden and Sanders' stances on mental health

I know I'm not one to use my blog to talk about politics. I use my blog to talk about mental illness. But, while I'm not telling you who to vote for, I do think it's important to know what the democratic candidates' stances are on a topic that is near and dear to my heart — mental health.

So, I decided to do my research on Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, and what I found gave me hope. It gave me hope that maybe one of them can really change the current mental health landscape in America where less than half of those with a mental disorder receive professional help.

Joe Biden

Biden has firsthand experience with mental, neurological and developmental disorders. When he was a child and teen, he struggled with stuttering – a neurological disorder that affects about 3 million Americans. The Atlantic’s Senior Politics Editor John Hendrickson, who has a severe stutter himself, said he noticed traces of Biden’s stutter while interviewing him only a few months ago.

Biden also has a son, Hunter, who struggles with mental illness and drug and alcohol addiction. Biden has always supported and loved Hunter  never rejecting him because of his struggles. Hunter told The New Yorker that, when he recently went through a period of drinking heavily, his dad came over unannounced to his apartment in Washington and told him, “I need you. What do we have to do?”

So, obviously, with his history, mental health is an important issue for Biden. He has said, "We have to make it clear to all people that there is no stigma in seeking help for a mental health issue.”

Biden has stressed that he believes physical and mental health should be treated equally. He said, if elected president, he will protect and build on Obamacare to expand funding for mental health services to help those suffering from a mental illness or addiction get the help they need. He said he would also ensure that there's more access to healthcare providers in rural areas and in places with few medical facilities.

“Mental health care is health care. As president, I will ensure enforcement of mental health parity laws and expand funding for mental health services. I will also double the number of psychologists, guidance counselors, nurses, social workers, and other health professionals in our schools so our kids get the mental health care they need," he told USA Today.

"I will pay for my health care plan, which includes mental health care, by getting rid of capital gains tax loopholes for the super wealthy. The Biden plan will assure those making over $1 million will pay the top rate on capital gains, doubling the capital gains tax rate on the super wealthy."

Bernie Sanders

Sanders’ interest in mental health began in college, according to Time Magazine, and he even considered becoming a psychiatrist before he took the political path.

“I became very interested in psychiatry and the relationship between mental illness and society,” he had said.

Colette Shade, essayist for Jacobin Magazine, calls Sanders the "strongest candidate on mental health care." She said that, the reason why more than half of those with a mental illness (and probably even more that haven't been diagnosed) don't receive the help they need is because they can't afford it — and that Sanders would fix this.

Sanders has said, "We must make sure that mental health services are available to all Americans regardless of income. Today, for low and middle-income people living in rural areas, it is especially difficult to find timely, affordable care.”

When running for president the first time, Sanders said, if he's elected president, he is "going to invest a lot of money into mental health." He joked, "And when you watch these Republican debates, you know why we need to invest in mental health." (A joke that, honestly, many people with a mental illness did not find funny)

According to Feel the Bern, Sanders fought for revisions to the Affordable Care Act to authorize $11 billion over five years to improve and expand community health centers — providing affordable primary care and mental health counseling to the underserved. Sanders, who has served as a U.S. senator from Vermont for the last 13 years, also spearheaded Vermont's Mental Health Parity Act, which requires insurers to provide equal benefits for both mental and physical illnesses.

"In the richest country in the world, no American should have to go without basic health care. Community health centers are a critical lifeline for millions of Americans, and we must build upon their success by expanding them to everyone who needs them," he said.

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