"It is an issue that every candidate for public office at every level needs to be addressing in this election," said Michael J. Fitzpatrick, executive director of NAMI.
In 2003, the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health reported that the nation's public mental health care system is "a system in shambles" in which mental health services are "fragmented, disconnected and often inadequate, frustrating the opportunity for recovery," according to NAMI.
In 2006, NAMI published "Grading the States: A Report on the Nation's Mental Health Care System for Serious Mental Illnesses." In the survey, the national average was D. The home states of the presidential and vice-presidential candidates hardly fared better. Their scores: Alaska (D); Arizona (D+); Delaware (C-); and Illinois (F).
Mental health advocates say the effects of the Iraq war, as well as the Bush administration's approval of mental health parity as a component of the financial bailout legislation, could provide momentum for the next administration to take mental illnesses as seriously as physical illnesses.
"Mental illness doesn't discriminate between Republicans and Democrats," Fitzpatrick said. "It affects millions of Americans, including veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, families recovering from natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, and families confronting home foreclosures or other financial upheavals."