“Healthcare as a whole should be a universal human right.”
By Shelby Daniel
At the beginning of June 2018, major news networks were hit with two back to back celebrity deaths. In the span of days, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain took their own lives. Both of the public figures’ tragedies catalyzed a firestorm on social media, with the constant fuel to the flames being the necessity to normalize conversations about mental health. Something about this didn’t sit right with me, though. At the end of the day, two acclaimed artists in their respective fields tragically lost their lives too soon. Two acclaimed artists in their respective fields were unable to find access to the mental health care they needed. It boils down to this: Spade and Bourdain were wealthy, white celebrities that did not get the help they needed in time.
A few months prior to these events, I was informed I had to get a root canal my second semester of sophomore year despite having perfect teeth all my life. My parents and dentists were shocked, and in many ways confused. Eventually, it came to light that the infection necessitating the procedure was the result of an eating disorder. The effects of my ED caused acid decay in a bottom right molar and led to the infection. The procedure became an urgent priority quickly. Teeth are connected to multiple nerves leading to the brain; if the infection spread further, it could lead to serious brain damage.
I had a nearly $300 co-pay for the dental surgeon, on top of the cost for the crown and filling. I have lived in a relatively comfortable, white, middle-class family all my life. I also have distinct memories of growing up and being scared to ask my parents for help with my ED, knowing I needed it, because I thought it would make us go “bankrupt.” I had that paranoia growing up in a white, middle-class suburb.
Mental healthcare has a profound impact on individual, interpersonal and public relationships. It is a necessity that can, and should be, available to all regardless of your economic or employment status. I experienced multiple different emotions when thinking of the very public examples like Spade and Bourdain and the tangible experiences in my own life. However, as 2020 looms closer, all I feel is anger. Anger at the failures of the United States to address and support any and all who are experiencing various mental health issues. Not to mention the very real connections between mental and physical health that could lead to the requirement of more treatments and more money. Healthcare as a whole should be a universal human right. If the white and wealthy are confronted with the realities of mental illness and poor mental health, it’s certain members of marginalized groups confront these realities even more.