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For many Americans, summer traditionally represents a time of celebration. As a gay student and rising senior at Lynnfield High School, I celebrate the completion of another academic year as well as Pride Month. Additionally, July 4 is recognized as the anniversary of the creation of our nation. This year, however, it felt difficult to celebrate. The coronavirus pandemic all but eliminated the possibility of social gatherings, and recent attacks on the identities of a variety of minorities made it difficult to take pride in oneself.

All of these negative impacts were exacerbated by the inability of Congress to prioritize communities in the greatest need, including Washington’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic. Beyond failing to secure public health, according to The Guardian, 82% of the benefits of the tax changes in an April stimulus package went to people making more than $1 million dollars a year, creating a burden of $90 billion on American taxpayers. Evidently, instead of prioritizing people in need, including the millions of unemployed Americans, Congress has prioritized the wealthy. Such lack of concern for struggling communities is exactly why there is a desperate need for new leadership in Washington.

There is an opportunity for new leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives from Massachusetts’s 6th Congressional District with congressional candidate Jamie Belsito. Her slogan, “6th Over Self,” says it all: Belsito’s top priority is the well-being of our communities, including its weakest members. Belsito’s focus on communities in need resonates with me in an area she has worked on for several years: her advocacy for mental health.

Mental health issues have consistently been under-addressed, but they must be prioritized as depression levels spike amidst the pandemic. As a student, I see the need for government officials to address the mental health crisis as a priority. During my freshman and sophomore years, one student died each year by suicide, and friends of mine are continuously grappling depression. In 2017, the CDC ranked intentional self-injury and suicide as the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. Today, a Kaiser poll reports 56% of adults feel as though the pandemic has caused “at least one negative effect on their mental health and wellbeing.” Washington has inadequately addressed mental health issues, and now the issues are rising amidst the pandemic.

Belsito recognizes people struggling with mental health as a community in need and prioritizes it in her policies and advocacy. She began advocating for mental health awareness on a state commission on postpartum depression and has served as the Advocacy Chair for the National Coalition for Maternal Mental Health. Her policies include developing “dedicated mental health supports ... into public ... education systems” and requiring private and public health insurance plans to completely cover substance abuse recovery programs. These policies are centered around the needs of our district, and exhibit an emphasis on our local communities that will carry into Congress. This experience and these proposals give me confidence in Belsito’s expertise in mental health that can drive policies based on our community’s needs that can make a real difference.

Belsito’s prioritization of struggling communities does not only come across in her mental health policies. Rather, she is running her whole campaign based on the needs of our district, leading to policies growing from her love for our community. In her immigration policy, she advocates for a humane entry system and pathway to citizenship. For educational issues, Belsito’s proposals include a fully funded universal preschool program, meeting the needs of children and parents alike. Policies centered around struggling communities are desperately lacking in today’s Congress, but Belsito, through every part of her platform, demonstrates consideration for people struggling the most. We deserve a representative who will focus on our needs rather than a presidential campaign, making Belsito the strongest candidate for Massachusetts’s 6th Congressional District.

The Massachusetts primary will be held on Sept. 1, with early voting from Aug. 22 to Aug. 28.

Finn Mattingly

Lynnfield

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