This is my first presidential election and I’m very excited to have a say about who is going to lead our country.
I’m 21 years old, just graduated from college with a degree in psychology and I have been diagnosed with several mental illnesses, most recently bipolar disorder. As a teen you feel like you don’t have a choice because parents and teachers decide everything for you. Finally, I get a chance help decide who is going to run the country. It’s also not just about who will run the country, but also what happens worldwide because the U.S. president has such a big influence internationally.
When I was a child my parents made a point of taking me to the polls every election. I registered as a voter on my 18th birthday. I just filled out the application at school and popped it in the mail. It’s really easy—you can even fill it out on line, print and mail.
When I went to vote for the first time, a few months after I turned 18, it was exhilarating to have a say. I was surprised that the line went so quickly, about 15 minutes and casting a ballot took maybe two minutes. I just pushed the buttons for the candidates I wanted to vote for and I was done. And the people at the polling place all clapped because I was a first time voter. I felt so proud.
It’s really easy to find out which candidates align most with your views. There are websites all over the internet where you can research each candidate.
On the League of Women Voters or Project Vote Smart websites, all you need to do is put in your ZIP code and read candidate platforms. You can also read articles and blogs from their supporters and critics. If you want to find out what to say or questions to ask about mental health issues go to NAMI’s “Mental Health Care Gets My Vote” website.
The youth vote was influential in the 2008 election and also will have an impact in 2012. Candidates who are elected in 2012 will have a say on issues young people are concerned with, like gay rights, education, abortion and health services.
The 2012 election is important for young voters who care about mental health because we are still in a recession and services need funding. Many people don’t realize how greatly mental health services affect the well-being of our entire nation. If we can help people with mental illness through peer support groups, hospitalization, medication and community services, not only do we help individuals, but then they can go back to work and the whole community is stronger. When you are in your early 20s—in college or not—it can be a stressful time for people with emerging mental illness. We need service to stay in school and go on to be part of running the country.
Health care reform affects young voters because the Affordable Care Act currently allows people age 26 and under to stay on their parents’ health insurance. If that were repealed, young Americans will have to find their own health care, which is becoming more and more expensive. Without insurance young people with mental illness would not be able to find a doctor or pay for medication. There would be more hospitalizations the person could not pay for, which would also be a drain on the economy.
Casting an informed vote is really simple, especially with the internet and the technology we have now. It’s not hard to reach the candidates. By writing to them you are helping influence and create a country that is run the way the people want it to be.