Addiction And Mental Health Are Major Themes At The DNC, And It’s About Time

The Democratic National Convention already has a different tone (because of course) than the Republican National Convention did last week. There seem to be fewer complete blowhards and way less hate — except for the Bernie or Bust crowd jeering Hillary Clinton every time they got a chance. But the most interesting thing was that addiction and mental health was a major DNC theme the opening night, and it was really fucking refreshing to hear people talk about it in such a public national forum.

New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan spoke about the heroin and opiate epidemic in her state (and throughout America) along with a New Hampshire resident, Pam Livengood, who spoke about her daughter’s struggles with drugs. Then, the mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh, opened up his speech saying that he was an alcoholic. And then, Demi Lovato closed the segment by talking about her own addiction and mental health issues.

Far too often, people pretend that mental health and addiction (which go hand in fucking hand, by the way) are dirty little secrets that one just doesn’t talk about. It’s sort of like how states that don’t teach about sex because they’re scared to say “penis” to pubescent preteens have higher rates of STIs and pregnancy. Not talking about it doesn’t make it go away — it makes it worse.

President Obama’s drug policy is modern and focuses on treating addiction with science instead of really fucking flawed ideas that people who struggle with addiction are just weak and careless. Treating addiction like an illness that can be treated is a whole different thing than treating it like an icky disease you don’t want to catch. It means treating people with respect and making it easy to get medication and treatment with healthcare.

When it comes to heroin and opiates, it’s about revolutionizing everything we know about the “war on drugs.” It’s sad to say, but there has been more attention to the heroin epidemic now that it’s affecting affluent white kids. Sure, it’s everywhere, but drug addiction isn’t something that just happens to poor people in big cities. Changing how we fight crime, putting an end to discrimination, and focusing on “prevention rather than incarceration,” as the Obama administration puts it, sounds like a lot. But it’s really just a tweak in how we look at the problem.

It’s refreshing to stop pretending that mental illness and addiction don’t exist. Being an addict or struggling with your mental health is actually a lot more common than most people probably think. I really hope the speakers at the DNC Monday night and Hillary Clinton’s “dedication” to the issue are the real deal and it continues to be something the country works on getting better at handling. Because, really, changing the way we fund research and treatment for mental health and addiction is actually a very simple, easy thing to do.

People don’t have to suffer — all it takes is for legislators to get their heads out of their asses and budget for it.