When my younger brother was about eleven, he decided he did not believe in God. My mother, being the supportive, inquisitive person that she is said, “Okay, that is fine, but out of curiosity, why don’t you?”
Jacob responded, in the plainest terms, “I cannot see God and you can’t prove that He exists.”
While it is certainly shocking for an eleven-year-old to make such a profound statement about his philosophical view of the world, what is not surprising is his reasoning. Many people share his skepticism of intangible, often inscrutable topics. Mental illness, being one of those invisible realities, is often dismissed as an illegitimate disability simply because it can’t be bandaged up or seen on an x-ray.
Ruby Wax in her TED Talk, “What’s so funny about mental illness?” asks it best: “how come when people have mental damage, it’s always an active imagination? How come every other organ in your body can get sick and you get sympathy, except for the brain?”
Perhaps what is most devastating about our stigmatization of mental illness is the number of people it affects: 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness in a given year. Statistics have shown that half of these illnesses will appear by age fourteen; however, they may not be treated for decades after the symptoms first appear.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), through its expansion of health insurance to over 24 million people since 2014, helped make mental healthcare accessible, affordable and a public matter. In the case of one woman from Kentucky, who had several pre-existing mental illnesses and behavioral health issues, as well as a history of addiction, ACA made medication affordable that was otherwise $500+ without insurance.
Unfortunately, the newest piece of legislation regarding health care, the American Health Care Act of 2017, would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Regarding mental-health in America, it would effectively stop funding for able-bodied low-income people and implement block grants to restrict per-capita funding per state. AHCA would penalize those living with invisible illnesses and create barriers to mental-health care for those who remained eligible. As of May 4, the proposed bill has already passed in the House of Representatives; the Senate introduced a bill, but it has not yet been voted on.
The AHCA is only one-third of the way through the legislative process, so we still have time to make our voices heard. Tell your Members of Congress the importance of maintaining affordable, high-quality care. Tell them that granting the insurance providers the ability to charge patients with pre-existing conditions more is not acceptable. Tell them that undoing ACA would jeopardize the coverage of ten types of procedural and medical services. Let your voice be heard, and contact your Members of Congress.
As a young Jewish woman, perhaps why I am so impassioned by this cause is because of the prayer for the sick: Mi Sheberach. It is a prayer for physical well-being, as well as compassion, strength and restoration for those facing illness, for all Jews, and for all human beings. For those of you that are hurting, in whatever way that may be, know that while you cannot see our prayers, they are there and they are every bit as real.
Bailey Roos is a sophomore at Arizona State University, where she is studying International Policy and Philosophy with the hopes of becoming a lawyer. This summer, Bailey is interning at the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.