Just weeks away, the election is on everyone’s mind. While mental health is nonpartisan, it touches just about every other issue that you might care about – from tax policy to social justice to COVID-19. When you cast your ballot, you’re voting for mental health whether you realize it or not. Why is this so important? Historically, 1 in 5 people experience mental illness, 5 in 5 are affected — Serious mental illness is linked to $193.2 billion in lost earnings each year. This was before a global pandemic triggered an unprecedented surge in need — 58% of US adults report that COVID-19 has negatively affected their mental health, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
In Illinois, funding for mental health and other human services is at the top of the ballot, in the form of the FairTax Amendment, which would establish a graduated income tax to generate more revenue and spread the burden more evenly. Currently, the top 1% of Illinoisans typically pay half of what middle- and lower-income households pay.
While research shows that voters want and need adequate mental health and other human services, flaws in the current tax system have created systematic shortfalls that caused Illinois to experience years of damaging cuts. Over the past decade, state grants for mental health decreased by $200 million, with funding for addiction treatment dropped by $80 million, as the State of Illinois built a $142 million backlog of unpaid bills to community-based providers.
The outcomes have been predictable. In Illinois, only 23.3% of residents have access to adequate mental healthcare, and 93.7% of rural hospitals are in designated mental health shortage areas. In 2018, more than one in 10 adults with mental illness had no insurance; even with coverage, 60% of U.S. counties do not have a single practicing psychiatrist. Communities of color have been hit especially hard. Illinois ranks in the top 10 states for African-American adolescent suicide. Shortages mean Latinos are twice as likely to bring their concerns to primary care doctors rather than a trained mental health clinician.
NAMI Illinois endorses the Fair Tax Amendment as one important solution to support better mental health in our state, and encourage our members to learn more here and to make their voices heard on Election Day.
We also encourage NAMI members to take the national pledge to #Vote4MentalHealth, which connects them to nonpartisan information about mental health issues as well as tools mental health voters can use to make a difference.
How to Vote
Voting is already underway in Illinois. Take into consideration your health and comfort level to determine what method works best for you. You can vote in several ways:
Vote by mail or absentee: If you have a completed ballot, you can find official dropbox locations here. There have been reports of unofficial dropboxes, so make sure to confirm where you are bringing your ballot.
Vote early: Because of COVID-19, early voting locations are more popular than ever. The most accurate and up-to-date information can be found on your county’s website.
Vote on November 3rd: You can find details about your polling place on the State Board of Elections website.