Michelle Obama Slams Mental Health Stigma in Prevention Magazine Interview

Michelle Obama Slams Mental Health Stigma in Prevention Magazine Interview

By Keri Blakinger 09/29/16

“We need to teach our kids that mental illnesses are just like physical illnesses and deserve the same kind of care and compassion."

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Michelle Obama Slams Mental Health Stigma in Prevention Magazine Interview

Yes she can—tackle mental health stigma. 

In a first-class interview inside the October issue of Prevention magazine, First Lady Michelle Obama took on the negative stereotypes associated with mental illness.

“The stigma around talking about mental health and getting help for it just doesn’t make any sense,” she told the magazine, according to the Huffington Post. “This is an issue that affects us all.”

It’s also an issue the first lady has been willing to address before. In 2011, she—along with Jill Biden—launched Joining Forces, a nationwide initiative designed to support veterans and service members.

“I kept meeting service members and military spouses who were hesitant to ask for help because they thought they should be able to handle it themselves or that seeking help meant they were weak or broken. But of course that couldn’t be further from the truth,” she said.

“Our service members, veterans and their families are some of the most courageous, resilient folks I have ever met, and asking for help is always a sign of strength.”

Her Prevention interview also touched on the need to improve awareness of children’s mental health struggles.

“We need to teach our kids that mental illnesses are just like physical illnesses and deserve the same kind of care and compassion,” she told the wellness mag. 

FLOTUS has a strong track record of speaking out for mental health awareness. In 2015, she helped launch the Campaign to Change Direction, which seeks to “change the culture of mental health in America so that all of those in need receive the care and support they deserve,” according to its website.

To help achieve that, the campaign urges Americans to learn the five signs that someone is in emotional distress: personality change, agitation, poor self-care, withdrawal and hopelessness. The idea is that by recognizing the signs, friends and family can get their loves ones to seek help before it’s too late. 

“Our mental health seriously affects our physical health. So there should be no stigma around mental health, none at all,” she said at a summit in Washington, D.C., at the campaign launch.

Earlier this year, FLOTUS wrote a blog called "Let's Change The Conversation Around Mental Health" when Duchess Kate Middleton stepped in as guest editor for Huffington Post UK. In the blog, Obama touted national efforts to address mental health issues that veterans and service members face everyday.

She wrote, "Whether an illness affects your heart, your arm or your brain, it’s still an illness, and there shouldn’t be any distinction. We would never tell someone with a broken leg that they should stop wallowing and get it together. We don’t consider taking medication for an ear infection something to be ashamed of. We shouldn’t treat mental health conditions any differently. Instead, we should make it clear that getting help isn’t a sign of weakness—it’s a sign of strength—and we should ensure that people can get the treatment they need."

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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