In September, social media was flooded with messages to raise awareness about suicide prevention. Republicans, including Glenn Youngkin, readily joined in with platitudes even though they have done little to ensure a mental health safety net.
I lost a family member to suicide last year. Even though I’m a social worker who has spent my career in mental health advocacy and my family had advantages others do not, we still endured this terrible loss. Suicide and mental illness can happen to anyone.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, in Virginia four times as many people died by suicide in 2019 than in alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents. Furthermore, 57.5% of communities did not have enough mental health providers to serve residents.
I have little patience for the likes of Glenn Youngkin who has no real plan to expand mental health care beyond funding Virginia’s mental health crisis plan. Democrats have funded the crisis plan and provided $8.9 million for the STEP-VA program (an initiative designed to improve community behavioral health services) and an additional $185 million for community-based treatment. Investments like this are needed and will continue in a McAuliffe administration.
Further compromising our mental health is COVID, which has driven isolation, anxiety, economic distress, and loss of life. Youngkin is not tough on combating COVID, stating vaccines and masks should be voluntary.
Our only hope to secure mental health care for Virginians is to support Terry McAuliffe and Democratic candidates this November.
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