Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee owes all Americans an apology, particularly the 1 in 5 persons who experience mental health conditions in any year, their families and friends.
During the Iowa radio talk show “Mickelson in the Morning,” on June 26, Huckabee declared that U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts “needs medication for schizophrenia,” based on the logic of decisions in court rulings last week.
“As political tactic, Governor Huckabee has exploited the stigma that traditionally has surrounded mental illness in order to attack the competence and credibility of someone with whom he disagrees,” said Mary Giliberti, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). “Such a remark would never be tolerated about needing chemotherapy for cancer or insulin for diabetes. It represents political ‘stigma-slinging’ at its worst.
“It doesn’t matter whether a person agrees or disagrees with the Supreme Court. It doesn’t matter whether a person is a Republican, Democrat or independent. To use mental illness as a metaphor to win political advantage does a terrible disservice to those who are diagnosed with this condition and often use medication as part of hard-won journeys to recovery.
“Stigma, perpetuated by any candidate’s statement, can lead to people’s reluctance to seek mental health care and devastating, even life threatening consequences.”
Schizophrenia is a mental illness that interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions and relate to others. It affects about 1% of Americans. The average age of onset tends to be in the late teens to early 20s for men and the late 20s to early 30s for women. It does not mean that a person has a “split” or multiple personalities.
“The U.S Surgeon General and three presidents—Clinton, Bush and Obama–have all recognized that stigma around mental illness is a public health problem,” Giliberti added. “No serious health condition should be trivialized through political mockery.
“NAMI hopes that all the presidential candidates will speak out against stigma during the course of the 2016 election campaigns and will support policies to address the failing mental health system for those with schizophrenia and other serious mental health conditions.”
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