What a Trump Presidency Could Mean for People with Mental Illness

Regardless of which side of the political fence you stand on, a new President-elect means a new wave of policies regarding the healthcare situation in the United States. Especially when going from an 8-year long Democratic reign to a new Republican stronghold on American politics.

In the wee hours of the morning of November 9th,  Donald J. Trump was named the new President-elect of the Unites States of America. The Rupublican party also gained control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives.  This change shocked many political experts as Trump had been down in the polls for months behind competitor and presidental hopeful, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Some of the lesser-biased statistics showed Clinton having at or above an 85% chance of clinching the race, only to be defeated by what many news outlets are attributing to a “rural white vote” that had not been accounted for by these experts.

The race was stressful to say the least, with the enitre world watching and holding their breaths. But now that it is over, and our 45th president has officially been announced, what does this mean for those with mental illness?

While Clinton’s website directly addressed the topic of mental health in America, Donald Trump’s website does not focus on this topic as a major issue. So in order to figure out what we might expect when he is officially put into power, we have to examine verbal statements from speeches and debates.

While many may not admit it for fear of the stigma associated with mental illness, it is estimated that as many as 1 in 5 adults in the US suffers from some form of mental illness in a given year. And this election may have a huge impact on this silent population.

The only direct mention of mental illness I could find while browsing Trump’s website was under the issue of  veteran affairs and gun control. Trump’s website states that aside from the physical wounds, we must look after the ‘invisible wounds’ of our veterans as well. He says he will “Increase the number of mental health care professionals, and allow veteran’s to be able to seek mental health care outside of the VA” in order to accomplish this goal.

Well, okay that’s a start. It is true that a great many of our veterans do not get the support they need when they leave the military, and that certainly needs to change. However, I still think that when 20% of the population struggles with mental illness each year, it would be nice if the issue would get more attention from his campaign. Not even his topic on Health Care makes any notion towards any kind of illness, physical or mental. Instead, this topic focuses on his plan for healthcare in contrast to what Obama has implimented, and what Clinton had planned to implement in more of a business sense than a patient-centered one.

Now, on his stance on gun control he makes this statement: “All of the tragic mass murders that occurred in the past several years have something in common – there were red flags that were ignored… We must expand treatment programs, and reform the laws to make it easier to take preventive action to save innocent lives. Most people with mental health problems are not violent, but just need help, and these reforms will help everyone.”

Something about this statement really doesn’t sit right with me. While I try not to be overly sensitive to this topic, it is hard not to take this personal for me for two reasons: the first, I have a diagnosed mental illness, GAD. And secondly, I am in school to work in the medical feild, and have worked with patients suffering everything from mild anxiety to debilitating dementia and hallucinations. Now, would I really want a gun in the hands of someone with a history of acute paranioa or dellusions? No, probably not. But his statement makes zero differentiation between types of mental illnesses. To lump such vastly different disorders together (such as clinical depression or panic disorder and acute schizophrenia) is part of what makes the stigma of mental illness so powerful in the first place, which causes many people to fear seeking help;  an idea he clearly doesn’t seem to understand. Also, the way the statement is worded makes it seem like if someone who is mentally ill doesn’t get help, they are then likely to become violent. I am not saying that is my take away at all, but it is a really poorly worded statement in general and  I think his idea could have been conveyed more clearly.

In comparison to Mrs.Clinton’s approach to mental illness, her plans included to fund brain behavioral research, move healthcare to focus on a hollistic view of a person (including regular physical and mental screenings), and to launch a national initiative for suicide prevention to name a few. Again you can read more while her campaign website is still up here.

So to further my understanding of what people like myself may expect when Mr.Trump takes office, I researched what he has said about mental illness and how he addressed it. The very first link that popped up in my research was from The Atlantic which featured another comment he made about gun control. Now first, let me just say this article is clearly written passionately and reads as such, but I am trying to get the meat out of this article and just focus on fact rather than opinion.

First, one should note that this is an older statement made back during the GOP debates. However, from the statement he made on his website, it is clear that this opinion on mental illness and gun control has not changed much. Trump stated “I feel that the gun-free zones and, you know, when you say that, that’s target practice for the sickos and for the mentally ill… They look around for gun-free zones.”

If I had been watching this live I probably would have fallen out of my seat. As much as I try to champion for a variety of mental illnesses, to be called “sickos” and to say that we look around for gun free zones is so insulting I am struggling to put it into words. Thankfully, The Atlantic did that job for me,”Trump’s claim also seems to rest on two big myths: that mental illness causes violence or crime, and that the presence of mental health can predict violence.” They also go on to write, “extensive research has shown that only about 4 percent of violence in the U.S. can be attributed to people diagnosed with mental illness. Trump’s remarks suggest mental illness is the sole cause of violent acts, and not one factor among many.”

So I’ll bring it back to his website which should be as up-to-date and straight from the horse’s mouth as I can get. His topic on gun control claims that, “your second ammentment right will not be infringed upon. Period.” but it also claims that there will be more screenings towards mental illness. So I guess you can keep your guns, as long as you don’t have mental illness, and if you do, well, who knows.

Now turning away from the topic of gun control, Forbes wrote an article this morning on exactly what I am addressing today. However, although the article is literally titiled, “What Trump’s Victory Says About The Mental Health Of America” it is written like a fluff piece with almost zero information about what this election actually means. Sorry, Forbes, I usually like your stuff. The only good piece of information on this piece is a statistic that has been circulated on the news and is already widely known by this community, “Anxiety and medications to control also have been on the rise…the same applies to many other mental health diagnoses, signs, symptoms, and measures.” The article also states, “many more Americans are depressed now than in the 1980′s and the use of antidepressants has doubled since that decade.”

…Um… duh? The only real mention of Trump comes on the second page of the article and I’ll sum it up for you so you don’t have to read this painfully frustrating waste of time, it basically states something like, ‘we just don’t know what he will do to address it, and he may not even know himself.’  Super helpful.

Well I guess that really is all there is to say at the moment. While he has made some indications of his stance on this huge, and hugely under represented issue, the jury is still out on what to expect from a Trump presidency concerning mental illness. However, from what is available at the moment, I’m not feeling all too confident as someone with a diagnosed mental illness, and as well as a member of the healthcare team.

I would love to have more of a discussion on how his presidency will directly relate to mental health in America. But please, try to keep the conversation on this one topic. Let me know if you have heard of any other information on this, whether you are cautiously optimistic, or are worried for this change.

 

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Stigmatized – Part Two: Pursuit of Perfection

I have started this post about five times already. Each completely different, and each not enough to me. Each revision was completely deleted, and a new one started over the course of almost a week and a half. And I wasn’t happy with any of them. The topic that I want to forge a discussion about today is the idea of ‘perfection’ and the power that single word has over people with mental health disorders, but the problem I keep running into is that I have been borderline neurotic the past several days and I just can’t keep a single running thought in my head without jumping to something completely unrelated. This post may very well come out sounding scatterbrained, but I’ve also decided that’s okay. I’ve been in a very dark mental state since about a week ago, and allowing myself to write in this state will capture something I often can’t put into words. And even if I still can’t, perhaps the general feeling will somehow relay itself through my writing.

…anywho, I said I wanted to discuss perfection right? Yeah… okay let’s see…

So per my Barbie picture above, modern society has increased the pressure on both men and women to be a new brand of ‘perfect’. Perhaps most detrimentally to young adults whose self image is still developing.

We all need to be beautiful, to be smart, to go to college, to exercise, to eat right, to play a sport, to be wealthy, to always dress in new clothes, to have equally beautiful best friends, to have a perfect significant other, to have a perfect family life, to keep a busy social life, to be politically active, to be culturally literate, to be healthy…

There are so many ideas always being pushed at us of what a person absolutely should be that there isn’t a whole lot of room for our own opinions. The media, capitalism, and social media have taken our own thinking out of the equation and told us what we need to achieve.


What a dangerous thing, when we are taught what to think instead of how to think. 


In this mold that has been defined for us by society, where does any kind of mental illness fit in? Spoiler alert: it doesn’t. 

So mentally ill people often go undiagnosed for years until finally reaching a breaking point, or worse, they never get the help they need.

Others often are in denial they have an illness, because who wants that kind of stigma attached to them? Who wants to be labeled as “mentally ill”.

So I’m going to do something I often don’t do, and I’m going to share a few more personal details about myself. Something I also said in a previous addition makes me feel very uncomfortable and exposed. But here goes.

I am a young, colleged-aged adult. Often struggling between the world telling me I need to grow up and be responsible but simultaneously not being trusted with such responsibilities because I’m “too young” – a very frustrating kind of limbo. I am pursuing a career in the medical field and am in my junior year of a very competitive program that ranks higher than Johns-Hopkins and Priceton’s same programs. (Although somehow outside of the profession my small school is not widely known). I work a part time job, am involved in a Greek organization on campus (it’s a love hate relationship, but it definitely gets me more involved), I actively participate in community service, bring dog and cat food to the local animal shelter when I have any extra cash, and am in a healthy long term relationship with my significant other; there’s a good possibility we might even have marriage in our future.

My life literally sounds perfect, doesn’t it? I sound like I have all of my ducks in a row.

Well, that might be what the world sees, but what they didn’t see is the panic attack I had last weekend because I was staying with family a mere 60 minute drive outside of my normal home and that being out of my normal environment made me so on edge my chest did that thing when I’m panicking where it tightens up and it feels like I’ve been strapped into a too-tight corset.

The world didn’t see the panic attack yesterday when I felt so misunderstod and isolated. Like I had no one to talk to that would accept the very ill side of me. The part of me that was hysterically crying, struggling to breathe, pulling at my hair as I drove to my SO’s house while my brain frantically searched through the people who just might answer the phone and calm me down if I called them right then. They don’t know that just getting out of bed in the morning and getting dressed is its own huge feat and I constantly, actively have to put energy into pushing myself to do normal everyday activities.

I am not going to write the somewhat formal ‘conclusion’ to this piece as I typically do in my others. I just want to pose a few questions to anyone reading this to think on until I write again.

Where did this stigma of mental illness start?

How does it affect your daily life?

Why has the conversation of mental illness opened up so much, yet the stigma is as staunch as ever?

How did you feel during your last panic attack/ptsd episode?

Did you have anyone to talk to? If so what did they do to help you?

What is your biggest fear concerning your mental illness?

Will your coworkers look at you differently? Are you afriad to seek medical advice? Will your social circle outcast you?

Where does this stigma end?