Nearly one in five Americans experience mental illness each year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. But in an election cycle often dominated by worries about the economy and national security, mental health gets comparatively little exposure as a serious issue on the presidential campaign trail.
In this election season, the issue has been brought up most frequently when candidates have discussed mass shootings. Candidates on both sides of the aisle have stressed the need to prevent mentally ill people from acquiring guns, including Democrats advocating for gun control as well as Republicans arguing that the lack of treatment for mental health issues should be blamed for mass shootings rather than the gun industry.
The heroin epidemic has also provided an opportunity for candidates to link drug addiction and mental health, with candidates like Bernie Sanders and John Kasich arguing that the nation’s prison system must stop being used as a substitute for treatment.