WASHINGTON, D.C.—SAMHSA stands by its commitment to fostering and protecting the mental health of all Americans. It is vastly disappointing that the mere reference to mental health is seen as a political ploy by members of the media and even other federal agencies who purportedly exist to protect the health of Americans. SAMHSA will proudly and continually advocate for the importance of addressing mental health.
Our fellow Americans who claim to herald science ignore that one of the main demands of science is the ability to consider multiple perspectives at once. Why have we, as a nation, accepted that the only science that exists is that which details the tragedies of the virus? For which other medical condition would this be permitted? Never would we ignore the casualties caused by heart disease to focus solely on cancer–never. Yet, the mention of mental health conditions, real medical illnesses, is automatically deemed political in today’s context. The beauty of America’s science and healthcare system has always been that we have understood all aspects of health and have been allowed to do so. Why is it that when someone raises a well-founded scientific claim related to a condition other than COVID-19, that claim is now, by definition, political?
The existence of the virus has not eliminated all other health conditions. The agency funded to promote and protect mental health must be allowed to call attention to the science around this condition. And, that science paints a damning picture. That science tells us that 2,010 children lost their lives to suicide and drug overdose in 2018. Those are not SAMHSA’s numbers. They are CDC’s. Science tells us that 40% of Americans are experiencing mental health consequences due to the pandemic. Those are not SAMHSA’s numbers. They are CDC’s. So, why is it unacceptable to share these facts with Americans? Why aren’t parents allowed to know what the very real and scientific consequences of school closures may be to their children’s mental health?
This agency has never called for a cavalier approach to reopening schools or society; however, we absolutely stand by our call to reopen schools with appropriate safety measures in place. The mental health of our children is not a political issue; it is a health issue. The mental health of our nation depends on our collective ability to accept all aspects of science and make informed and rational decisions based on such information. The success of our efforts cannot lie solely in the opinions of one single agency who, if challenged, calls “politics.” We must be bigger than that. Members of the public and the media: you are encouraged to hold SAMHSA accountable for the information we put out. To those living with mental health conditions or those who may be first experiencing them: this agency will not stand down. We will continue to fight on your behalf no matter the criticism we take. Your lives and this mission are simply too important to ignore.