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Over the past few weeks, a record number of people across our nation showed up to cast their vote for leaders they believe represent their values. Even amid a pandemic that has left more than 200,000 of our loved ones dead, created the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, and ignited a mental health crisis like we’ve never seen before, we turned out in record numbers to vote. We made our voices heard.

While the outcome of this election is unclear, what is clear is that this was never about one person. It was about how we as a country envision our future. For Mental Health America, that meant demanding that our leaders immediately address the mental health crisis that is taking over our country. With more than one-third of people in our country experiencing some level of anxiety or depression, our advocacy work is more critical than ever.

We are hopeful that whoever is ultimately elected will prioritize people living with mental health conditions. Our work is guided by the Before Stage 4 (B4Stage4) philosophy – that mental health conditions should be treated long before they reach the most critical points in the disease process.

If we are going to address the mental health crisis, all newly elected officials from local to state to national offices must prioritize mental health as soon as they are seated. Let’s work together to implement an urgently needed plan to address the growing mental health crisis.

This means putting significant additional resources toward mental health programs and services that are directed toward the earliest stages of mental health conditions and focused from the start on recovery. It means increasing access to mental health supports. It means moving our responses to manifestations of mental illnesses out from under sheriffs, police officers, courtrooms, jails, and prisons. It means helping our schools and workplaces become more supportive of the mental health of children and adults. It means training more professionals, including peer specialists, to support people with mental illnesses. And it means ensuring that every person who is struggling with anxiety, depression, psychosis, post-traumatic stress, or any other mental health condition gets the right health supports and treatments at the right time—B4Stage4.

As challenging and anxiety-provoking as these coming days may be, we must never lose sight of what we as a country stand for. Whoever is elected must not merely tackle the crises, but they must make this a place where all of us can thrive, regardless of race, ethnicity, country of origin, gender, sexual orientation or identity, neighborhood or community, or spiritual orientation. Together we can ensure that every person living with a mental health condition has access to the resources and support needed to live mentally healthy.