At his Virginia Beach rally today, Republican presidential presumptive nominee Donald Trump focused on veterans’ healthcare in the US. In this speech, Trump emphasized the need for expansion and reform in mental healthcare, not only for vets, but also for “the country at large.” In addressing instances like the recent shootings at the Pulse Night Club in Florida and the murder of five police officers in Dallas, mental health should be somewhere near the top of the list of priorities of the officials investigating these tragedies and the officials who can achieve the changes we need.
Donald Trump is not wrong. He is not off his rocker, and he is not suggesting anything outlandish. He is simply being honest. Mental healthcare in this country is lacking, and it is time that more focus come to mental health reform. First of all (and I have seen this firsthand in my own experiences dealing with and working in mental health facilities), privatized mental healthcare is prohibitively expensive, leaving most people to rely on state and local programs. Unfortunately, these programs are often pushed to the back burner when it comes to budget allocations, forcing patients to be tossed around between therapists, losing access to support groups, and even losing access to medication and programs altogether. This is, in fact, a recipe for disaster when you are talking about mentally unstable people in need of regular therapy and medication management. Budget cuts need to occur in other areas of government spending so we can stop sacrificing healthcare and mental wellness. Everyone deserves access to the best possible care. Period. And there are plenty of places where spending can be trimmed and those funds allocated to medical care and mental healthcare.
Secondly, Trump spoke of expansion, more options, and a few other aspects of mental healthcare reform. However, there is more to the issue that needs to be taken into consideration, especially at a legislative level. US federal laws and individual state laws are way too lax with regard to mental health issues. Because of this, many people are not receiving the help they need in a timely manner… which could very well identify major concerns, lead to proper long-term treatment, and prevent incidents such as those in Orlando and Dallas.
Mental healthcare can no longer be treated as a voluntary matter. Sure, if you seek help or commit yourself for one reason or another, each case should certainly be considered individually. However, all assessments and initial treatment should require a mandatory hold longer than 72 hours. I recommend 14 days to properly evaluate mental conditions and to stabilize each patient with a proper medication regimen and other methods such as DBT, daily therapy, and diet. Then, long-term therapy should not only be accessible, it should be mandatory. And this mandatory therapy should involve include therapy and medication management. Most of this could happen on an outpatient basis with incentives and other measurements to ensure patient compliance. For those with severe mental conditions those deemed a threat to themselves or others, hospitalization or institutionalization are the only plausible solutions to protect the mentally ill from themselves and to protect society from senseless tragedies brought on by severe, untreated mental health issues.
I also feel that our laws need to offer far more flexibility for involuntary commitment. I am not saying that just anyone should be allowed to commit someone based on their own suspicion or agenda; however, family and friends should be allowed to bring someone in based on their concern, and that, coupled with an intake assessment, should allow for a two-week hold when called for. After all, and it is unfortunate, many men tally ill people are in denial and refuse to seek help on their own. And back to the topic of mental healthcare for veterans, well, if our government is going to send men and women into war zones for the sake of American Freedom, the government not only needs to ensure that top-quality mental health services are accessible, there should be mandatory therapy for a minimum of two years post-deployment to help prevent the unnecessary tragedies such as the Dallas police officer massacre, the death of veteran sniper Chris Kyle, and the recent event right here in my own neighborhood involving Ian MacPherson and the shooting of Manchester police officers Matthew O’Connor and Ryan Hardy.
Maybe my stance is harsh, but if our country wants real solutions, we are going to have to stop coddling people under the guise of civil liberties and start addressing mental health before it’s too late. The United States is out of any other options, and we do not need more mass tragedies fuel by the demons of the mind.