I believe that each one of us have a story to tell about mental health, even if it takes some time to be comfortable sharing with others. For myself, after I had my youngest child, I struggled seasonally during the winter months. Recently, after I suffered a major accident in December of 2019, the isolation during recovery triggered a pretty intense journey through mental wellness. So many of us grapple with realities that are not publicly talked about, and are left to our own devices to struggle through. Not too long ago, one of our elected officials publicly stated that he had sought therapy. He went on to request that we begin normalizing mental health treatment, and I am ready to have the challenging, uncomfortable conversations necessary to get to the roots of the things that everyday Omahans face.
It’s easy to blame our issues on the pandemic, but what rose to the surface last year was not new to our society. Rather, they were problems much of our society could comfortably ignore if it did not directly impact them. Among the gaps in healthcare access and the job/housing insecurity that plagued our middle and lower classes, there was another problem brewing, eventually exacerbated by the pandemic- mental health decline. Stress, insecurity and mistrust of information affected us in in varying degrees, and as Americans we collectively went through an unprecedented change. We aren’t through the challenges yet, and once the dust settles on this chapter we must be ready for the mental health crises expected from these changes.
What does that look like? How can we anticipate the needs of our neighbors, regardless of their background? How can we proactively reach the most people regardless of what they are struggling with? We’ve asked our leaders the same questions for decades on topics like obesity, nicotine use, and environmental health. We’ve trusted our experts to combat such issues by addressing the needs of the people, finding or creating the best resources to provide to the public about treatment, and paving the means of prevention so that everyone has the appropriate tools. We cannot sleep on the opportunity to now prioritize mental health — just as we have for public health crises — and not only just talk about it, but see it truly as a problem to be solved – not a situation to shove under the rug until company leaves.
As your city councilor, I will promise to lead with love. I commit to collaborate proactively with the Douglas County Commissioners and Douglas County Public Health Director, as well as nonprofits and organizations working in the behavioral health / mental health and wellness space. I commit to prioritizing our residents’ mental health just as much as their physical health. I believe there is a way to meet this challenge with fair, balanced solutions that can reach our entire community, as well as to make sure we provide equity through language access as well.
I practice what I preach! When new volunteers come on to my campaign, we talk about running a slow campaign, and that I want us to feel comfortable asking for space when it’s needed. We ask for access needs ahead of time, and talk expansively about deadlines so they are not oppressive. Their overall well-being is my concern as their leader, and I will continue that example as the right choice for District 6. Let’s take the lessons of 2020 as opportunities to better the way of life for all of Omaha, since each of us has a story about how we’ve experienced mental health and wellness. None of us can do this alone, and I’m excited to gather us together, as part of the collective change we need to build our community into one better than how the pandemic found us.
Let’s elect leaders who prioritize mental health. Let’s lead – together – with love.