In his State of the Union address last night, President Obama touched on many of the top policy priorities and debates of our time: climate change, national security, cyber security, immigration reform, education, jobs, the economy, domestic violence, tax reform, wage equality, Medicare, deficit reduction, and more.
The President covered a lot of ground in one hour, but he missed an important opportunity to affirm the importance of addressing the gaps in mental health care for our nation’s young people.
More than 15 million American children have a psychiatric or learning disorder, but fewer than half of them will ever get help. Failure to treat mental health disorders in young people can increase their risk for academic failure, alcohol and other substance abuse, bullying, conflict with families, and authorities, and unemployment.
In recent months, the President and many elected officials in Washington have shown their determination to effect change.
In the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, President Obama and Vice President Biden convened experts in mental health to help shape new policies to educate the public about psychiatric disorders, to increase access to mental health care, and to improve the quality of care. The Child Mind Institute was pleased to have a seat at that table.
Lawmakers in the House and Senate have reached across the aisle to take similar action, introducing legislation to provide school based mental health services, to expand community sites offering mental health care, and to ensure that treatment is based on the latest evidence about what works.
The President has called for a national conversation to increase awareness about mental health, and to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness, which all too often prevents families from getting the care they need. Last night’s State of the Union address could have served as the perfect platform for launching that conversation.