Behavioral health matters because we all live in this world together. In the United States we are entitled to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” No one deserves to lose a loved one because of social stigma and every single person deserves the chance at healthy, functioning life.
Steps to ensure more access to mental health services would obviously have to start with funding and specialists. An argument could be made that some of California’s “one-size-fits-all” approach to every issue is not helping the situation. We are increasing the number of people who are let out of jail; some people in the criminal justice system get released and have no help or resources and remain on the street. For those that are homeless the cost of housing is too high. In the case of working families the stress of finances in an unaffordable state can sometimes be too much. We have to take a comprehensive look at all of our policies and see how they are affecting the behavioral health of California.
To fully destigmatize behavioral health, first the individual has to be open about the issues they have. It sounds easier said then done but throughout history every social stigma disappears when people stand up and say what/who they are. And again with 15% of Californians suffering from something, they have to know they are clearly not alone. Second and most importantly, “the 85%” have to learn about the differing degrees and conditions of mental health. I had to learn that OCD is not a really clean person. OCD means that an intrusive thought comes into their brain and they can’t get rid of it and it will sometimes keep them from performing simple everyday tasks causing extreme anxiety and depression. In the case of my wife, it was so bad she attempted suicide. Again, we are a very lucky family.
My wife suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It took me a while to fully understand that it is not a funny way to describe a very clean person. I am very proud of my wife for overcoming so many obstacles and stressors in her life to accomplish what she has so far in life.
I will fully embrace behavioral health as a policy priority, because if 15% of Californians actually admit to having an illness or a problem, that means the other 85% of Californians are affected by it. I know from my own personal experience that life, work, and other responsibilities don’t pause for individual struggles. It takes a strong spouse, caring co workers, and a committed network of friends and family to get through the toughest times. My wife and I are very lucky to have the network we do; not all Californians are as lucky as us.