Last week, a presidential candidate made an insensitive joke during a debate.
His wisecrack was at the expense of about 20 percent of the U.S. population, but it still got laughs and applause.
And if this were Donald Trump, insensitivity would be nothing new. But it wasn’t the Republican candidate.
It was Bernie Sanders.
The Democratic candidate and millennial magnet cracked a joke during the debate in Flint, Mich., last Sunday, relating mental illness to the antics of the Republican candidates.
“You know, we are, if elected president, going to invest a lot of money into mental health,” He said. “And when you watch these Republican debates, you know why we need to invest in that.”
Although the joke hits a lot of wrong notes, the biggest problem is that it fuels a stigma and perpetuates misinformation.
He should know better, especially because his main audience is the millennial age group, the generation dealing most with the onset of a mental illness.
One in 5 Americans experiences a mental illness, the National Alliance of Mental Illness says. About 10 million of those Americans live with a serious mental illness, and three-quarters of all chronic mental illness begins by age 24.
That’s more than the populations of Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and Houston combined.
Advocates have been trying to remove the stigma of mental health, to help encourage dialogue, and it is working in some ways. Movies and TV shows are trying to realistically portray mental illness.
The Texas House has named a committee to study mental health issues, and although it has had only one meeting so far, the presentations were hopeful.
Most candidates have mentioned mental health, and Marco Rubio has addressed the stigma.
Even Sanders has talked about a “revolution in mental health.”
But Sanders cracked a misguided joke. His bad action took the place of his previous good words.
Sanders should be helping to get rid of the stigma. Only then can his revolution can begin.