In an interview with the Daily Press of Hampton Roads on Saturday, Bolling -- who is state chairman for the Romney campaign -- said Obama doesn't understand how the economy works: "Bolling said that if people think Obama has done a good job over the past three years, they should vote for him — then 'check themselves into a mental hospital,'" the paper reported.
Bolling's comment "is an insult to all Virginians and all Americans — including active duty military personnel, veterans and people who actually live with mental illness," said two officials with the National Alliance on Mental Illness. "It is an outrageous, ignorant and prejudiced statement. It represents 'stigma-slinging,' one of the worst practices in American politics."
According to NAMI, one in four Americans experience mental health problems in any given year, and that includes Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike.
"Stigmatizing stereotypes and disparagement serve only to discourage people from seeking help when they need it," NAMI said.
NAMI noted that Bolling made his comment "in the heart of Virginia's military community...at a time when the Pentagon is trying to eliminate any stigma imposed on returning troops from Iraq and Afghanistan who may struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder or other brain injuries."
President Obama has been actively courting the military vote since he became president, and he has said that Virginia may be the key to his reelection. "[I]f I win Virginia, I'm going to get four more years. That I can say with some confidence," Obama told a crowd in Roanoke on Friday.
NAMI says it is "non-partisan" and therefore does not endorse political candidates, but the group is demanding an apology from Bolling. And because Bolling chairs the Romney campaign in Virginia, "we also call on Governor Romney to disavow the statement and speak out forcefully against the stigma that traditionally surrounds mental illness."