In our latest episode, I had the chance to speak with congressional candidate Lindsey Boylan. She is a candidate for congress in NY’s 10th district.
I found myself getting emotional a few times during my conversation with her. She has a very personal reason for pushing a mental health agenda as part of her campaign. If you do nothing more than watch her short video on why mental health is such a big part of her platform here.
In this episode Lindsey explains how the people in her district are spending more time searching for things like mental health, depression and anxiety on Google, versus gun control, climate change and plumbers. Not to diminish those other issues, but her constituents need a candidate who cares about what they care about. Americans needs politicians who care about what we struggle with because they have experienced it personally.
Lindsey is a New Yorker, a lifelong public servant and has done some great work in her service efforts to help secure hundreds of millions of dollars for underfunded public housing in NY, she’s worked to generate job growth in NY state, and she was heavily involved in the fight for a $15 minimum wage in NY.
She is a Board Member at the Design Trust for Public Space, she is on the Powerhouse Committee at “Run for Something” which is a group that encourages young progressives to run for state and local office, and she spends time advocating for NAMI-NYC (National Alliance on Mental Illness).
SOME OF THE THINGS WE TALKED ABOUT:
- What made you decide to run for congress? Lindsey talks about how she’s spent most of her career focused on solving problems to make systems better for people. She’s always been very driven to help other people.
- In Manhattan, more people are googling “depression, anxiety and therapy” than “gun control, climate change and plumbers.” Not to minimize the latter issues, but our leaders aren’t really focused on the issues that the people are most concerned about. People want to see politicians focused on mental health, and Lindsey is laser focused on it from a policy perspective. Lindsey is running for congress to help bring these very personal issues around mental health, to the forefront in government.
- Lindsey talks about how mental illness has impact her and her family. She is very passionate about changing the mental health system. Mental health is a core component of her campaign and it drives her personally, as well as professionally.
- Lindsey produced a video called “Mental Health is Personal” –in the video she explains that we don’t have a mental health care system in this country. Instead, we have a patchwork of resources for those who can afford it. We talk about why there is no real mental healthcare system. Lindsey gives an example about how in NYC it’s almost impossible to see a therapist that is paid for by insurance. We have this archaic barter system of a scale of payment that is very opaque. If you’re experiencing a crisis, or a hardship, and you don’t know where to go that is affordable, then it’s extremely daunting.
- We don’t treat mental health the same way we treat physical health in this country. We talk about the pool of resources that are out there to help people with various ailments and disease. We also talk about how many research dollars are available for things like diabetes and heart disease versus dollars available for mental health research. Legislation is required to get more funding flowing to mental health research.
- We talk about this forced narrative that exists around violence and mental health. Most people with mental health concerns are not perpetrating violence. People often want to only talk about mental health around tragedies and gun control. It’s frustrating that the only time the mental health conversation comes up in some circles is around tragic gun violence situations. Lindsey explains how frustrated she gets when people force the gun conversation and the mental health conversation to take place sin the same breath.
- We talked at length bout political appetite for mental health bills in congress. Lindsey explains that when she decided to run for congress, she spent a lot of time thinking about how we can move policy forward with regards to mental health. At first she wondered who the members of the mental health caucus are, and if any are from her state of NY (as it turns out, only one congressman from NY is apart of the mental health caucus – it is Rep. John Katko from the 24th District of NY – a republican). She realized that the people in NY are concerned about mental health and the elected officials from NY are not focused on this problem.
- We talked about what inspires her as a politician. Lindsey explained that she decided to run and was most inspired by leaders who have made politics personal. Personal experience with the problems we are trying to solve help us inform the debate. She is personally motivated to solve problems around mental health and once elected, can use her personal experience to help drive real change on this topic.
- We talked about the bipartisanship we saw in 2018 around Tyler’s Law. We talked about what can get done, and how much willingness there is to pass mental health legislation in congress. Lindsey explains that with the Affordable Care Act,we were able to move the conversation forward. Parity laws were important as well. Lindsey is a proponent of Medicare for all which would help drive more money and more coverage to more people who need mental health care as well. Lindsey explains how we have had several decades of lackluster investment in research.
As we start to revamp our healthcare system in the country, we need to make mental health a central part of whatever system we have in the future.
- We talked about how there isn’t really a great way to deal with crisis in this country when the problem stems from a mental health problem. There are so few resources available that most people call the police whenever there is a problem. Police often escalate a situation that doesn’t need to be escalated. This can make a situation more severe than it needs to be. We need to reform how we treat moments of crisis. Most people facing a mental health crisis are mostly potentially harmful to themselves, so we need to re-think about how we resource the emergency management system in this country. The current system moves toward hospitalization, and police involvement. We can do better.
- We talked about prison reform at length as well, which in our opinion, has a lot to do with mental health. Lindsey told me that 40% of the people in Riker’s Island jail have a serious mental illness. Are we dealing with people in a way that is putting these people in prison who used to go to mental institutions? Are there more humane ways to deal with these people? Could we all live more productive lives if we get this right? We need to spend money researching this so we can have the answers and reform these systems.