In reaction to the recent string of decisions by the Supreme Court of the United States, many US-based therapists are expressing anger, displeasure, and disenfranchisement about the political process in our country. Whether we are dealing with this in the news, with our clients (see our interview with Dr. Travis Heath) for guidance, or in our day-to-day lives, for those therapists who are feeling a call to action, there are plenty of things that you can do.
Supporting organizations that already take a stance on mental health policy might be one of the more timely things that can be done. During the 2022 legislative year many states and the federal government have numerous bills trying to address mental health issues. However well-intentioned, these bills often overlook the practicalities that mental health professionals can add to make them better–typically by explaining how the bill would look if enacted into law. As far as this year goes, the professional organizations who lobby are deep into conversations with legislators and supporting their lobbying efforts through donations helps continue their work.
Contact Your Representative
One of the easiest ways to get involved is to be regularly in touch with your elected members’ offices. At all levels of the government, from federal to local, letting your elected officials know about mental health and what to support can have more of a sway than you might think. Sometimes it takes several conversations to draw attention to an issue, but consistency is key. While it is easiest to send emails or phone calls to offices, it is likely that these points of contact are tabulated by interns working in the offices. Whenever possible, setting up meetings with the office tend to be attended by higher level staff or the officials themselves…who tend to be the ones who can have a lot greater impact. If you are going this route, you will want to make sure that you have some information to back the legislation that you are trying to get support on, such as the cost of implementing the program and how many people it would affect. To find your federal lawmakers, check out https://www.congress.gov/members/find-your-member.
Volunteer for a campaign
Getting active with a campaign might start out by phone banking, sending texts, or going door-to-door on behalf of a candidate. Typically people think that this only happens with presidential candidates, but can happen at all levels and you may have more of an impact working with local and state officials. Volunteering in this capacity might also give you an opportunity to be recognized for your background and ability to talk with staff members about mental health needs and policy.
Attend government meetings
Once again, things that can happen from local to federal levels. Mental health issues are discussed at all levels and public meetings allow for members of the public to make comments during scheduled times at meetings. Sometimes the consistency of showing up at meetings makes you familiar to the decision makers and gives your words more strength.
Run for office
While this might seem completely outside of what you had hoped, we need more elected officials with an understanding of healthcare systems and especially mental health care. Continuing to bring these issues to the table from people with the practical experience of working in these roles is important to creating the long-lasting systemic changes that we need. And if you’re worried that being that public about your ideas is going to ruin your relationship with your clients, check out our episode with Heather Janz.