Mental-health issues do not need scare quotes


President Obama addressed the National Conference on Mental Health yesterday, designed to encourage those struggling with mental illness to seek treatment.

“We whisper about mental health issues and avoid asking too many questions,” the president said. “The brain is a body part, too. We just know less about it. And there should be no shame in discussing or seeking help for treatable illnesses that affect too many people that we love. We’ve got to get rid of that embarrassment. We’ve got to get rid of that stigma.”

That’s a responsible and sensible sentiment, which made it all the more discouraging when the Daily Caller published its report on yesterday’s event (via Emma Roller).

President Barack Obama urged depressed, stressed and disturbed Americans to depend on the U.S. government’s growing corps of taxpayer-funded mental health professionals. […]

The broad definition of “mental illness” is set by the professionals who provide government-funded services to Americans.

In recent decades, the professionals have broadened the definition from severe, distinct and rare ailments, such as schizophrenia and compulsive behavior, to include a much wider set of personal troubles. Those broader problems include stress and sadness, which are medically dubbed “anxiety” and “depression” by professionals.

In the immediate aftermath of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary late last year, it was fairly common for policymakers from across the ideological spectrum to tout the importance of mental health and efforts to combat mental illness. Indeed, for many Republicans, this was a key talking point – it was a way for opponents of gun-safety measures to be engaged without appearing indifferent.

And yet, six months later, the Daily Caller is chastising a simple public-awareness program and subtly suggesting depression isn’t a legitimate ailment by putting it in scare quotes.

Roller added, “If anything, those scare quotes are helping the Obama administration prove its point about stigma.”

Here’s hoping the stigma, even among those at Republican media outlets, soon fades.

Mental-health issues do not need scare quotes