Oh, hey, Tipper Gore, it’s been a minute. The former second lady is back in the activism game, announcing on Tuesday a $1 million donation to the National Alliance on Mental Illness to help expand its outreach to teens. Gore, who has long championed mental health treatment but has stayed happily behind the headlines for the last few years, said she plans to work with the group to promote its “Ending the Silence” program, which aims to end the stigma attached to mental illness among young people.
Gore, 68, said the idea is to make people see mental health care the same way as they do physical care. “If a child gets injured on the playground, everyone understands that person needs treatment,” she said. “Mental health needs to be considered just as normal as, say, a broken arm.”
A mother pointing out the difference between the two was the “aha” moment that launched Gore’s activism on the subject way back in the 1980s. Her son had recently been in a car accident, and a woman whose 7-year-old daughter suffered from bipolar disorder approached her. “She said, ‘No one is sending us casseroles’ … and she explained the real injustice of that,” she recalled. “That was such a stark reality painted for me — two children with health problems, and they were being treated so differently.”
So if that was her initial inspiration, what prompted her to step back into the public square again? “I think we’re at a critical juncture where health care is concerned,” she said. “When I look at what they’re doing with the [Affordable Care Act], which is making it worse, it will hurt the poor and the vulnerable, and the middle class.”
“I think it’s heartless, and it’s going to result in hurt-ing peo-ple,” she said, drawing out that last phrase for emphasis.
President Trump’s budget was another impetus. “They’re slashing the mental health budget,” she said. “That’s why now. Individuals and corporations alone can’t solve this, but it’s time for everyone who can to step up.”
Gore said she’s enjoyed the quiet of the last few years. Since announcing her split in 2010 from former Veep Al Gore (Have they divorced yet? She said they’ve agreed that’s a “personal matter” they won’t discuss), she’s devoted much of her time to her children and grandchildren. She’s based in her native Virginia, but she still spends a few months of the year in California. And she’s still into photography, a hobby she shares with her boyfriend, former National Geographic magazine editor Bill Allen.
Gore said she felt the same call as many of the newly woke protesters in the Trump era: “I wanted to do something.”