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Why does government involvement automatically mean force? I think it is possible for the government to invest in mental health care without forcing people into treatment. Many with mental health concerns would gladly take treatment but they cannot afford quality care. Insurance often does not cover (or does not cover well) mental health issues. As a society, we have only recently begun to have open and candid discussions about mental health. People are no longer afraid of the stigma and negative social consequences, but there is a lack of quality, affordable care. Of course, we cannot force people into treatment, but it should be available to those who need it.
This issue is so dear to my heart because so many people need mental health services which are not available due to a dearth of qualified professionals or the expenses associated with mental health care. Arguments for providing mental health services would be for veterans as far too many suicides, homeless veterans, or veterans who end up in jail as a result of untreated PTSD show the need. Many of the men I see in the jail as a crisis counselor may be in for domestic abuse, but when we dig deep, we often find a veteran with untreated mental health issues directly related to their military service. If we as a government helped our veterans re-integrate into civilian life, we could avoid the hidden costs of prisons, lawyers, trials etc. I believe it would be cheaper to treat them for entering civilian life again than to pay the human costs of lives lost and the monetary costs of the judicial system. Have your debate team look into the rate of suicides in the military, how many veterans are homeless or jobless, and the availability of services which can help them, especially professionals who also have had military service who can better understand the issues. Good luck on a critical issue of this time.
Your debate team could explore the role of government approach:
For me, the question of government's role in investing and providing mental health services comes down to a question of federalism. The Bill of Rights originally set out to define and protect citizen's rights as well as states' rights; the Tenth Amendment provides that "[t]he powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." Ideally, states should have the power to enact laws and programs regarding the health of their citizens; of course, in the last fifty years, the national government's role in healthcare has expanded exponentially.
Should the U.S. invest more in mental health services? From a need-based perspective, the country probably should invest; mental health care is a genuine need for many people in this country. From a Constitutional, strictly political point of view, however, mental health services is really not provided for, leaving the topic to fall under the category of powers given to the state mentioned in the Tenth Amendment.
Mental health is so important but is government always the answer? We can't force people to do what we want them to do. I think that insurance companies should offer more incentives to customers who attend seminars or something like that. My district's insurance (health) made a deal with us that if we do five active things each year, then we (teachers) wouldn't have to pay our premiums. The list includes going to seminars, participating in racing events, going to exercise classes, seeing a mental health professional, and reading exercise journals. Even doctor appointments with specific requirements can count as one of the five activities. This has motivated many employees to go get those needed doctor appointments and to be more active in their lives. This reward system has motivated me and my husband to actually get out and exercise. I wonder if this same idea couldn't be applied to more local business and organizations in order to improve our local communities. If we improve ourselves on a more local level, then maybe the federal government wouldn't feel the need to step in about everything. I believe that we gain more control over our lives the more we govern ourselves from the smaller units of society (i.e. families, schools, churches, businesses).
It is hard to argue against this point of view. I basically see two ways to do it. One is simply that the federal government does too much. This is the “small government” point of view. It holds that the government should stop trying to do so many things for so many people. It should be up to the market to provide mental health services if people demand them. The second way to argue this is that mental health is a worthy thing but that it has to be weighed against many other worthy things. For example, what spending do we cut to pay for this? Or are we going to pay higher taxes? It’s easy to say that the government should do more, but we have a hard time paying for what it already does. As another example, how coercive do we become? Do we give the government the power to institutionalize people or force them into therapy against their will? It’s easy to say that the government should do more, but the devil is in the details.
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