mental health word cloud shaped like a brain

Taking Steps to Support Mental Health

By Elise Glaser

With the correct resources and aid, those suffering from mental illness can find a way to a cure, or a way to effectively manage their illness. I watched my brother climb out of a deep addiction after years of rehab, sober living, Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous and therapy. Only with my parents’ health insurance was this possible and was his stability secured. I have many friends who have found their way out of depression, anxiety, eating disorders and obsessive compulsive disorder with the right medication and treatment. However, these treatments were always accessible by their families’ income and insurance. Throughout these rehabilitation processes, there was little help or guidance from the government, putting the majority of the stress on the concerned family members.

With a disorganized, under-funded mental health care system, there is significant economic discrimination against those who cannot afford private practice treatments and pricey medication.

On June 16, a hearing was held on the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act. Congressman Tim F. Murphy (R-PA-18) stated that this bill (H.R. 2646): “aims to fix the nation’s mental health programs by refocusing reforming grants and removing barriers to care.”

“We spend 130 billion on 112 programs and agencies that don’t work together and don’t have good results.” More than 11 million Americans suffer from severe mental illness, Chairman Pitts asserted in the hearing. Rep. Murphy also stated: “I hear judges sometimes say, ‘well it’s not against the law to be crazy.’ Well, it’s not against the law to have a heart attack but we do something about it.”

The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act is a significant step forward as the committee recognizes the numerous flaws in the mental health system. The bill resonated deeply with me, as many of the barriers listed are ones my family had to break through. Although we had the money, due to a flawed law, in court, my unstable brother chose to walk out of mental wards onto the streets instead of coming home.

June 16, I attended a child nutrition hearing, there, Congressman Dave Brat (R-VA-7) voiced his worry about the impact that SNAP and children’s free meal programs would have on the family structure. He felt that the more the government did, the less the parents would work for their kids. The witness, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, refuted this claim quickly. He stated: “I was an orphan and my adopted mother was an addict, she was not there when she was using or drinking. We all wish that there is a family member there for that child, but if not, someone has to be there.” This relates closely to the government’s role in an individual’s mental health. Although one would hope this person could help themselves out of their mental illness or have the money, family and access to deal with their illness, there is substantial evidence that that is often not possible. As Tom Vilsack said: “someone has to be there”, a functioning, accessible mental health system should be that support system.

At the same child nutrition hearing, Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-1) stated succinctly: “no one struggles by choice.” It is difficult to remember that no individual makes the decision to be hungry, uneducated, overworked, homeless, mentally ill or addicted.

After about 10 days in D.C. navigating The Hill and attending hearings, my main takeaway is the detached but impactful influence decisions here have on the individual constituent. It is my hope that legislation like the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act is a positive gateway to a more obtainable outlook on treating mental illness. As individuals, we must advocate for a more efficient mental health system, we must also take steps in our own lives to combat the persistent stigmas around mental illness.

To learn more, visit the RAC’s page on mental health.

Elise Glaser is an incoming sophomore at Lewis and Clark College. She currently plans to major in Psychology and French. She grew up in Woodinville, Washington, outside of Seattle. She is currently interning at MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, where she tracks bills on child, senior and military hunger. She hopes to have a career working with non profits. 

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Machon Kaplan Participant

About Machon Kaplan Participant

Machon Kaplan is the Religious Action Center's work/study internship program for undergraduate students interested in Judaism and social justice. Learn more at The views expressed in these posts do not necessarily reflect the views of the Reform Movement.

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