White House Conference on Mental Health

Today the White House hosted a national conference on mental health. In his opening remarks, President Obama took a moment to thank everyone in attendance as well as the folks across the country who work on behalf of those suffering from mental illness.  He said the main goal of the conference was not to start a conversation about mental health but to elevate that conversation to a national level and to bring mental illness out of the shadows. The President talked about mental health parity and acknowledged former Representative Patrick Kennedy and his colleagues who worked tirelessly to ensure that individuals have access to mental health coverage that is comparable to what is offered for physical health. Unfortunately, as he noted, many individuals still do not have access to much needed treatment. He called on the country to do more to recognize the early signs of mental illness. President Obama concluded his remarks by offering a plea for individuals suffering from mental health to seek help. He assured them that they are not alone, and encouraged Americans to help those in need heal and thrive.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius moderated the morning panel which focused on addressing the stigma surrounding mental health and ways to break down the barriers that are preventing far too many people from seeking the help they need. The panel consisted of individuals with personal connections to mental illness.

The next panel was led by Education Secretary Arne Duncan and consisted of presentations by experts and organizations that have been successful in using creative ideas to address mental health. The presentations also highlighted techniques that can be used to reduce mental health stigma and help the millions of Americans struggling with mental health problems recognize the importance of reaching out for help.

Vice President Joe Biden delivered the closing remarks for today’s conference. He reiterated themes that had been discussed throughout the day and also made a plea for those suffering to not be ashamed of their condition but to know that help is available.

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