Kansas Mental
Health Coalition

November 12, 2010

YOU DID IT!

Voting Rights

Amendment Passes!

article adapted from http://www.protectvotingrights.com

Until the November 2010 election, the Kansas Constitution has given the Legislature the authority to pass laws that could prevent people with mental illness from voting. On Election Day, a majority of Kansas voters took that authority away by casting their ballots for Amendment No. 2. This result sends a strong message that discrimination against people with mental illness will not be tolerated.

Just as importantly, this election demonstrates that the voters of Kansas understand that a common health problem such as mental illness should never be used to determine whether someone is qualified to vote. They understand that it shouldn’t matter whether someone has depression, bipolar disorder or PTSD: the right to vote is a fundamental right that belongs to all law-abiding Kansans, regardless of the disability they might live with. For this reason, we thank the voters of Kansas for their support.

We also want to thank the hundreds of smart, hard-working and talented volunteers who made this campaign a success. For the past five months, the mental health community in Kansas has worked diligently to pass Amendment No. 2. We didn’t have much money. We couldn’t afford to broadcast our message with expensive and well-placed ads. But we did have a strong corps of volunteers. They were the backbone of our campaign. They gave their time, attended rallies, wrote letters and networked on Facebook and in their communities. They did all this because they understand the importance of battling the stigma associated with mental illness. They understand that stigma discourages people with mental illness from seeking the treatment they need to live healthier lives. They understand that the Constitution’s language perpetuated this stigma.

Many of these volunteers live with mental illness. During the campaign, they stepped forward by the scores to tell their stories about living with conditions like depression, schizophrenia and PTSD. They did it on our website, at rallies and, bravest of all, in front of microphones and cameras. Their stories of illness and recovery went all across Kansas, inspiring thousands and demonstrating that mental illness should never be confused with incompetence or lacking the skills needed to vote. But more importantly, their stories served as shining examples. They showed us that it’s ok, even therapeutic, to come out and tell the world: I may have a mental illness, but I also have a life. This evening, we want to applaud them.

We also want to applaud all the organizations and individuals who donated to this campaign. We especially want to thank the Sunflower Foundation, the Healthcare Foundation of Greater Kansas City and the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund for their generous and significant contributions. Without their support we would not have had the logistical capacity to run a campaign or the money needed to send mailers to more than 100,000 Kansans that included key statistics and facts about mental illness. Thanks to donations like these we were able to conduct a widespread public education campaign that delivered the message that mental illness is a condition that can affect anyone at anytime.

Tonight, of course, marks the end of our campaign to pass Amendment No. 2. But we want all of Kansas to know that it does not mark the end of our effort to erase the stigma that too often accompanies mental illness. Those of us in the mental health community pledge to continue this conversation, to continue educating Kansas about mental illness, and to continue giving people who live with mental illness the hope and encouragement they deserve.

 


(c) Kansas Mental Health Coalition, P.O. Box 4103, Topeka, KS  66604-0103         785-969-1617

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