The Mental State of Our Union


How did the President address mental health in his State of the Union address?




There was so much that I was curious about in anticipation of President Biden’s first State of the Union address on March 1. Of course, one of the topics was mental health.

I had expressed so much concern in my daily column on February 22 with the title question of “Do We Have the Worst Mental Health and Care in the World?” I knew the answer to that before a week was up. After the invasion of Ukraine by Russia and the horrifying traumatic repercussions on the population, Ukraine surely is the candidate for the worst mental health in the world. Moreover, what we are rebuilding in our infrastructure, Ukraine is rapidly losing, including mental health services. And yet, the people and leaders of Ukraine are also exhibiting extraordinary aspects of the best of mental health: courage, creativity, and caring for one another.

After seeing some of the speech and reading all of it, President Biden certainly did address mental health specifically. Out of his unity agenda of “4 big things,” he started with the opioid epidemic, advocating for increased funding. That sounds promising, but why was a substance abuse disorder separated from other mental health disorders? We do not do that in psychiatry, and there are often dual diagnostic disorders.

Mental health did come second. Here the focus was on children, including the adverse repercussions of social media on them. He added on the need for more mental health clinicians and resources, though not mentioning our epidemic of burning out.

Now, we will have to look for results. As the Mental Health Month of May arrives, we have to monitor the progress to see if we are really moving toward better mental health in our country and the world.

There is no health without mental health. And, dare I say, no unity without enough mental health in our leaders and citizens of the world.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues relate to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric TimesTM.

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