First Lady Michelle Obama: Let’s Change The Conversation Around Mental Health
Ryan joined the Navy when he was 20 years old, and he was deployed to Iraq for the first time a few years later. He served on a team that disarmed roadside bombs and IEDs, and when those bombs exploded, they would rush to the scene to clear any remaining explosives while sorting through unimaginable wreckage and carnage. In recognition of his incredible valour, Ryan was awarded a Bronze Star and an Army Commendation Medal. But when Ryan returned home to his wife and two young daughters after his second deployment, the war stayed with him. He had constant splitting headaches, nightmares and panic attacks, and his ears just wouldn’t stop ringing. He would pace his home at night, worried that his family was in danger. One evening, he finally hit rock bottom. After laying awake in bed crying, he got up, headed to the bathroom, and prepared to take his own life. Through my work with service members and veterans as part of Joining Forces – the initiative Dr Jill Biden and I launched to rally Americans to honour and support our veterans and military families – I’ve seen that Ryan’s experience isn’t unique.
But the veterans and service members who do struggle are not alone – not by a long shot. In fact, roughly one in five adults – more than 40 million Americans – suffer from a diagnosable mental health condition like depression or anxiety. These conditions affect people of every age and every background: our kids and grandparents, our friends and neighbours. That’s why the Affordable Care Act expanded mental health and substance use disorder benefits and parity protections for more than 60 million Americans and required new plans to cover depression screenings for adults and behavioral assessments for kids. That’s also why my husband put more mental health counsellors in place for veterans and signed a bill to help prevent veteran suicide.
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The First Lady (@FLOTUS) February 17, 2016
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