The recent call by a national coalition of mental health advocates — including Poway resident Linda Mimms — for presidential candidates to focus on mental health issues is timely and valuable.

Among middle-aged and older Americans, high rates of drug overdoses and suicides have pushed U.S. life expectancy down for three years in a row for the first time in a century. As San Diego State University professor Jean M. Twenge has detailed, rates of teen depression and suicide have soared since 2011 as the double whammy of smartphones and social media have fueled isolation and unhappiness — affecting “young people in every corner of the nation and in every type of household.”

In a recent interview, Mimms made a number of thoughtful points, in particular her observation that the emphasis on privacy in the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) can prevent parents and caregivers from assisting in the treatment of family members. She also thinks having a Cabinet position devoted to serious mental health issues is a good idea.

But whether or not candidates endorse such specifics, their platforms must address what the next president should do to deal with a mental health crisis that is reflected not just in suicides and drug and alcohol abuse but in growing homelessness and more deadly mass shootings. This crisis demands a cohesive, coordinated response.

— The San Diego Union-Tribune

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