Presidential Candidates Discuss Mental Health in New Hampshire

The National Council, NH Community Behavioral Health Association, and Mental Health for US held the Unite for Mental Health: New Hampshire Town Hall this past Monday in Manchester, NH. Four 2020 presidential candidates participated: U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), and Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld. Candidates provided their positions on mental health and addiction treatment access and answered audience questions.


The event was anchored by keynotes from New Hampshire-based two-time Olympian and IRONMAN triathlete Sarah True and former U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy, sharing their experiences with mental health and addiction and calls to action for attendees and candidates. Judge Steve Leifman of Miami-Dade County screened an exclusive trailer of his upcoming documentary “Definition of Insanity” and took part in a conversation about criminal justice reforms with local circuit court Judge John Pendleton. Ken Norton of NAMI NH highlighted the issue of emergency room boarding in the state of New Hampshire and called on attendees to push for change of discriminatory activities against individuals with mental illness or addiction. Matthew Francis, a suicide survivor, shared his own personal journey to self-acceptance and finding joy.


Candidates who were polling an average one percent or greater nationally or within New Hampshire over the past six months were invited to participate. Two Democratic Presidential hopefuls and two Republican presidential challengers attended the event either in-person or via Skype: U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI2), Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL8), and Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld. Each candidate was given the opportunity to speak for five minutes on their mental health and addiction policy position and then 15 minutes for Q&A from the audience. Questions covered suicide prevention, criminal justice reform, the behavioral health workforce shortage, increasing access – including through the CCBHC demonstration – and how to ensure hope and support for individuals experiencing mental illness or addiction and their families.


If you missed the event, you can still watch the Facebook livestream. Join the #AskAboutMentalHealth movement to call on future debate media partners and moderators to ask questions about mental health and addiction in the national debates. Sign the statement of support to show policymakers you care about behavioral health issues. The final Mental Health for US event will take place in Los Angeles, California on January 13thregister to attend or follow Mental Health for US on Facebook.

Guest Author

Katiri Zuluaga
Manager, State Initiatives