CNN hosts town halls with Sanders, Buttigieg,

Edward M. PioRoda/CNN

Pete Buttigieg on Thursday said if elected president, he would give voice to mental health struggles and empower local organizations and communities in the US to deliver solutions. 

An undecided voter in New Hampshire told Buttigieg at the CNN town hall, “In June, I lost my daughter Abigail. Despite working in the field, it was a struggle to access adequate evidence-based treatment. I had to fly her across the country to access services which were often times not provided in an evidence-based way.” 

“Having recently lost a child to inadequate mental health and substance abuse services,” she continued, “what strategies do you support to eliminate the disparities between mental health and physical health services?”

Buttigieg responded, “First of all, I’m so sorry for the loss of your daughter, and I admire your being prepared to stand up and talk about that loss.”

“I think the first thing that has to change — before we get to the policy, I’ll come to the policy in a moment — but the first thing that has to change is a willingness to talk about this, because mental health struggles affect every family,” he continued.

Buttigieg said the American people need to create a culture “where it is as acceptable to talk about struggling with bipolar disorder as it would be to talk about a fight with cancer, where it is as routine to seek an emotional health checkup as it is a physical.”

“If we make that change in how we talk about and think about serious mental illness and addiction, that makes it so much easier to get the policy right. And I will be a president who will give voice to those struggles,” he said. 

Buttigieg said there needs to be a build-up of mental health providers in the country. He also said technology can be better used to assist in providing mental health care, and that he would use federal funds for “healing and belonging grants” in local communities.

“We will empower local health departments, local communities, and local organizations seeking to deliver those solutions and make sure that they get funding to help them as they do,” Buttigieg said. 

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