Michelle Obama Just Offered a Powerful Message on Mental Health

February 17th 2016

Laura Donovan

First Lady Michelle Obama wrote that it's time to change the way we talk about mental health in a new Huffington Post piece. In her essay, Obama included the common statistic that about one in five adults suffer from mental illness and that many are too afraid to get the help they need because of the societal taboo surrounding mental illness.

"Whether an illness affects your heart, your arm or your brain, it's still an illness, and there shouldn't be any distinction," Obama wrote, adding that mental illness is often wrongly viewed as less serious than physical illness in our culture.

Michelle Obama

"We would never tell someone with a broken leg that they should stop wallowing and get it together," she continued. "We don't consider taking medication for an ear infection something to be ashamed of. We shouldn't treat mental health conditions any differently."

Obama said that people should be encouraged to seek help for mental health struggles rather than feel like their issues are a sign of weakness.

"[G]etting 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," she wrote.

That's why she and her husband, President Barack Obama, helped launch the Campaign to Change Direction movement last year to increase mental health awareness. They also released a list of signs that indicate someone might be facing mental health issues:

Mental illness signs

"We need to have the courage to reach out and have tough conversations with our friends and family members -- and get help ourselves when we need it," Obama wrote. "And we need to recognize that our mental health is just as important as our physical health, and start treating it that way."

Many mental illness victims feel like their issues are misunderstood.

The first lady's article addresses the reality that mental illness victims can feel alone because others don't understand or try to understand what they're going through. Comedian Stephen Fry, for example, has spoken at length about why it's ineffective and not very helpful to ask depressed people why they are sick.

Stephen Fry mental illness

"If you know someone who's depressed please resolve to never ask them why," Fry said. "Depression isn't a straightforward response to a bad situation, depression just is, like the weather. Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they're going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It's hard to be a friend to someone who's depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest and best things you will ever do."

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