Public Policy’s Effect on Mental Health

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By James Peele

Public policy has a direct effect on many different aspects of life in so many different ways. When policy is established in any given entity, it then becomes the reality that is governed for the people residing in this area. These policies can affect housing, jurisdictional practices, access to resources for different communities of people, and economic entities. All of these subjects that are affected by public policy create a direct effect on the mental health of the people these policies apply to. Public policy should always be created with the mental health of these people in mind, but many times policy makers prioritize economic prosperity over this important consideration.

One way that policy can have an effect on mental health is through its varying levels of access to mental health assistance for people that need or desire it. One example of this can be seen within the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996. This law prohibits employee-sponsored group health plans from imposing higher annual or lifetime dollar limits on mental health benefits than those applicable to medical or surgical benefits (Ohio University, 2020). Policies such as this one can be seen as a level of advocacy for the mental health of workers in the United States. This directly affects the mental health of applicable employees needing health benefits, causing less disparities between the eligible finances dispersed for each person.

Another way policy can influence mental health is through the amount of research that is done before implementation. Effective policy that is meant to help the masses should be backed up by an extensive amount of research considering one policy can have many different effects on different demographics. Advocacy research has the specific purpose of influencing the formal and informal policies established by policymakers and individuals in power (Rabinowitz, 2021). If extensive research is done with the consideration of the mental health of the population, then the policy will be more effective in positive results for these people. In contrast, lack of research will have the opposite effect, as the mental health of the people impacted was not considered.

There has been a great amount of advancement in policy within the United States that affects mental health, but we still have a long way to go. As it applies to disparities based on races, gender identity, sexual orientation, and many more identities, there is still a lack of equity amongst these groups that must be rectified. This relates to access, knowledge, experiences, and even prejudice towards them that causes ineffective policy to be created. The mental health of historically marginalized populations is continuously impacted, often at the expense of groups in power. As we move towards a more inclusive and equitable society, many different influences of policy on mental health must be considered for different demographics and their experiences.


Mental health policy in America: Stats, Tips & Resources. Ohio University. (2020, October 6). Retrieved January 25, 2022, from

Rabinowitz, P. (2021). Section 10. conducting research to influence policy. Chapter 31. Conducting Advocacy Research | Section 10. Conducting Research to Influence Policy Main Section | Community Tool Box. Retrieved January 25, 2022, from https://

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