Advocates: 'Mental health can no longer be treated like 2nd cousin in health care'

Hundreds crowded the rotunda at the Minnesota state Capitol Thursday for an annual plea to help with mental health care.

The lobbying day happens every session, but the needs never seem to change. 

“Mental health can no longer be treated like the second cousin in health care,” Sue Abderholden of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Minnesota said. 

Becky Scheig’s son, Andrew, was diagnosed with severe OCD and depression when he was 11. She lost him a few years ago after many years of waiting for appointments and programs. 

“I find it appalling that in this great state of Minnesota, children and adults have to wait for a bed in order to get the help that they need,” she said. 

More than a month after the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., the national conversation has shifted to mental health services as a way to stop violence from happening--though advocates at the Capitol say that strategy is misguided.

“We do need more mental health care, but does that address the violence issue? No.” Shannah Mulvihill of Mental Health Minnesota said. "People with mental illness, living with it, are much more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of it.” 

A bigger push this year is fairness, including pushing insurers to cover mental health as they would any other condition. 

"[We want] equality in terms of being able to access healthcare, access mental health treatment, education, jobs, housing, all of that," Abderholden said. "Right now people with mental health issues face a lot of discrimination in their lives."