Alyssa Milano: If you care about mental health, then make sure you vote

Alyssa Milano: If you care about mental health, then make sure you vote
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A few weeks ago, I wrote a deeply personal essay about my battle with anxiety and mental illness. Thank you, dearly, for everyone who voiced their support and shared their own stories — they were brave, heart-wrenching, and unbelievably powerful.

Together, we are demanding our lawmakers defend — not sabotage — our access to mental health services. And together, I am asking us to bring our voices to the ballot box in November.

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I am one of the over 40 million Americans across the country who lives with a mental illness. This includes nearly 7 million people will Generalized Anxiety Disorders (GAD), nearly 8 million people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),and 16 million people with Major Depressive Disorder. These are parents, neighbors, and community members who fight the stigmas and symptoms of mental illness every day.

 

And we deserve for our pain and our care to be taken seriously.

As co-chair at Health Care Voter and activist, I am one of the millions of health-care advocates fighting to ensure that our experiences and stories are valued during the midterm elections. As a coalition of progressive organizations, we are mobilizing voters to hold the GOP accountable for their attacks our care and their attempts to repeal and sabotage the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Let me be clear: The passage of the ACA offered relief for millions of Americans living with mental illnesses — and every time Republicans vote to sabotage our health care, they threaten to rip this progress away.

The ACA’s passage was so powerful because it sent a message to people with mental illnesses that our pain is real and deserves attention in the broader debate on access to health care.

The ACA ensured that mental health services were included in essential health benefits and it applied federal parity policies that protect Americans from paying more for mental health services than for other kinds of medical care. Insurers were required to view access to mental health services as being as important as access to other types of care. Under the ACA, insurers were told that they couldn’t treat people with mental illnesses with the same stigmas that we face elsewhere.

And it worked.

The proportion of uninsured Americans with severe mental illnesses dropped by nearly a third by 2015. The number of people who had serious mental health issues, but who could not afford the necessary treatment, also fell from 33 percent to 24.4 percent by 2015.

And across the country, the overall uninsured rate plummeted by 16 million people by 2016.

Yet, our representatives continue to attack the ACA and threaten to take our access to crucial mental health services away. The Republican tax bill is forcing 13 million people to lose their health insurance. The failed Republican health care repeal bill would have limited access to quality mental health care for millions of Americans across the country. Today, there are accounts of a new repeal bill taking shape in the halls of Capitol Hill.

This is not what democracy looks like, and this is not acceptable. Health care should be a right, not a privilege, and we will not stop fighting for it.

Join me by continuing to call out our politicians when they threaten our care. Join me by fighting the stigmas around mental health that continue to place barriers between Americans living with mental illnesses and the lifesaving and necessary care that they deserve.  

And join me by marching to the ballot box in November to hold these lawmakers accountable.

Alyssa Milano is an actor, activist  and co-chair of Health Care Voter.