WASHINGTON – In case you missed it, Seacoast Online published an op-ed by Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) that underlines how Granite Staters have made a positive difference by speaking out about mental health challenges and will continue to do so.
“In New Hampshire – with our citizen-led democracy – we know that the best way to solve a problem is to step up, speak out, and get involved,” wrote Senator Hassan. “No one conversation or one law will solve the mental health crisis alone. But the advocacy of everyday Granite Staters is still the best way that I know to make progress and build a better tomorrow for New Hampshire.”
To read Senator Hassan’s full op-ed that ran in the Portsmouth Herald, click here or see below.
Lieutenant Stephen Holmes enlisted in the Marine Corps when he was 17, served four tours of duty, and then joined the Exeter Fire Department. It was there that Stephen realized that he was struggling with serious mental health challenges, including anxiety, depression, and anger – and he was diagnosed with PTSD at the Manchester VA. Rather than ignore his symptoms, Stephen got the care that he needed – but he did not stop there. He showed incredible bravery in sharing his personal struggles and path to getting help with his fellow first responders, visiting fire station after fire station to help dismantle harmful stigmas that prevent people from getting help.
Of all the challenges facing our state, one of the urgent issues that I hear about most consistently from Granite Staters is the importance of mental health and the struggles that people face accessing care. I hear about this issue from veterans and fire fighters like Stephen, law enforcement, medical professionals, and teachers. I hear about this issue from students and young people, like Loreley Godfrey of Portsmouth. At age 18, after her friend suffered a panic attack and Loreley didn’t know how to help, Loreley was inspired to try to improve mental health education for young people. Since then, she has become a powerful advocate for improving mental health care, including advocating for legislative action in Concord.
Stephen and Loreley remind us that anyone can face mental health care challenges. A person’s age, job, zip code, or political party does not make them exempt from the weight of depression or anxiety. If people from as different backgrounds as Stephen and Loreley are saying similar things, it is clear that we should listen to them and try to do more on this urgent issue.
Tackling our country’s mental health care crisis is a daunting challenge. However, Stephen and Loreley’s experiences remind us that if we speak out and work together, we have the capacity to meet that challenge – and that each of us can help make a difference. When people speak out and share their own struggles with mental health – just as Stephen did – the harmful barriers and stigmas that prevent people from getting help begin to crumble. These conversations on their own may seem small, but collectively there’s a ripple effect and helps give more people the courage to get the help that they need. When more people speak up, those who may feel isolated or alienated on account of their mental health struggles gain hope by knowing that while they face real challenges, they do not walk alone.
These conversations are an important start, but it is clear that we also need to do more to strengthen our mental health services and make them more accessible. Loreley’s experience shows us how individual conversations can also inspire advocacy and legislative action. In New Hampshire – with our citizen-led democracy – we know that the best way to solve a problem is to step up, speak out, and get involved. I have seen firsthand the difference that individuals can make when they speak out on the importance of expanding our mental health infrastructure and ensuring that more people can get the help that they need. For example, in the aftermath of the Uvalde school shooting and through the advocacy of Granite Staters and Americans across our country, we were able to pass the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which, among other measures, supported the national suicide hotline and will help expand mental health services in schools.
Make no mistake: we are not powerless in the face of the mental health crisis that is challenging our country. When we have difficult conversations and share our own struggles with our family, friends, and neighbors, we can dismantle destructive stigmas and open the door to a better future. And when the American people build coalitions, stand united, and speak out, our leaders listen and we are able to make meaningful change. No matter who you are, do not underestimate the positive difference that your voice can make for your loved ones, friends, community, and country.
We have much more work to do, to be sure. No one conversation or one law will solve the mental health crisis alone. But the advocacy of everyday Granite Staters is still the best way that I know to make progress and build a better tomorrow for New Hampshire.
Maggie Hassan, of Newfields, represents New Hampshire in the U.S. Senate.