Raising the Tough Issues: Obama’s Mental Health Conference

June 5, 2013

Today’s post was written by Elizabeth Claydon, consultant to the Connecticut Health Foundation. It originally ran on Examiner.com.

thumbYesterday, Jun. 3, President Obama and Vice President Biden championed the opening session of a White House conference on mental health, stating that those affected by these issues should not suffer in silence. Although this conference was part of Obama’s response to the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting of last December, it raises broader concerns about mental health services.

There has been public speculation over whether and what mental health issues Adam Lanza may have been facing. An article called “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother” went viral shortly after the shooting to address the lack of mental health care available to families with children suffering from mental health problems. Regardless, Obama’s stance is that untreated mental health issues can lead to larger tragedies either for families or for whole communities.

Part of the agenda for this mental health conference was to discuss access to mental health services both in terms of location and insurance coverage, identify signs of mental illness in children and young adults, and improve access to mental health services for veterans. These issues are not new and have certainly plagued citizens in our country for many years. But this marks one of the first concentrated attempts by a president to sincerely address and aim to ameliorate the condition of mental health care nationally.

In order to ensure that all facets of the equation were represented, Obama brought together mental health advocates, educators, health care providers, faith leaders, members of Congress, representatives from local governments, and individuals who have struggled with mental health problems. It is a testament to the president that he is willing to raise these tough issues and connect with the people and resources who have the ability to effect real change.

Connecticut is already trying to address some of these issues through the CT Health Foundation’s Children’s Mental Health Initiative whose aim is to identify children at risk for mental health problems and connect them to resources and treatment in their community. This initiative also directly attempts to reduce stigma and disparities around mental health, especially among minority populations. I am privileged to work with this incredible initiative and it is heartening to see President Obama likewise realize the importance of confronting these issues.

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