Obama Leads Charge on Mental Health Front

The president on the mental illness stigma and how it can keep people from getting help they need.
17:48 | 06/03/13

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Transcript for Obama Leads Charge on Mental Health Front
This is a special group. Report from ABC news. Hello everyone I'm -- ribeiro with an ABC news digital special report president Obama's -- -- Conference today on mental health in response to the -- -- attended that elementary he's joined by mental health advocates. Doctors patients and others. In a discussion on insurance coverage substance abuse and other topics in the hopes of reducing the stigma attached to mental illness so more people can get the help they need. The president is delivering his opening remarks in the White House's east room. Let's listen. The morning and welcome. And -- -- Don young and I feel deeply honored to be here if you today. To openly discuss the very important topic of mental health in America today. Mental health disorders -- -- tens of millions of people throughout our country each year. And due to unnecessary stigma only a small handful will received treatment. And its -- suffer in silence. Those who do receive treatment will be left to face hearings Shane. Gilts. And secrecy. I understand -- challenge is all too well. I connect with his topping deeply because I've been there. I was fifteen on August 10 of 1999. When suicide took my brother's life at the young age of twenty. In the acre of grass next to our childhood home. Released a laugh and play together. Eight years later at age of 23 I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder. After suffering for years and silence. As he began to heal however I have this overwhelming urge to share my story with others. And I have been able to do that for the past three years through active minds. A national nonprofit organization. That empower students. To openly discuss mental health issues on campuses nationwide. The tens of millions of people who are suffering. There are friends. Are family members are neighbors and colleagues in its time we pulled together to put an end to the -- train. -- of assignments. And now. It is my pleasure and honor to -- to you the president of the United States president Barack Obama. Thank you so much. Welcome to the White House. And thank you Janelle for. That introduction and sharing your story and make -- such a difference. Through -- organization we're really proud to have you here. I want to thank the secretary Sebelius. Secretary Arnie Duncan sectors. -- -- For their leadership in helping organize this event and I also want to acknowledge some outstanding members of congress. War here and who cared deeply. About this issue and finally I want to thank all of you for participating. In this national conference on mental well. We want to bring together folks who've suffered from -- -- -- and families who supported them. We wanted to bring together advocates. And educators. Faith leaders veterans. Local officials. All of you have shown an extraordinary commitment. What is a -- critical goal and that is to make sure that. People are suffering in silence and that we have the capacity to pull together all the resources. And support and love. That's out there. -- To go after. Extraordinary challenge in our society. The main goal of this conference is not to start a conversation. So many of you have spent decades waging. Long and lonely battles to be hurt. Instead it's about elevating. That conversation to a national law. And bring mental illness out of the shadows. We want to let people living with mental health challenges know that they are not -- -- And we've got to be. Making sure the were committed. To support those fellow Americans. Because struggling with a mental illness or caring for someone who does. Can be -- and I think everybody here -- experienced. That's the issue in one way or another understands that. You know it it. He begins to feel as if not only are you alone but that. You shouldn't burden others. With the challenge. And the darkness day in day out. What some call a cloud that you just can't seem to escape. -- -- clothes and the truth is. In any given year. One in five adults experience moments. Point five. -- 45 million Americans suffer from things like depression or anxiety. Schizophrenia or speech yesterday. Young people are affected and a similar right. So we all know someone. The family member or friend and neighbor who has struggled. War will struggle with -- mental health issues at some point in their lives. Michelle and I are both known people. Who battled severe depression over the years people we love. And often -- those who seek treatment go -- to leave happy. Healthy productive lives. So we know that recovery is possible we know help is available and yet as a society we often think about mental health. Differently. -- other forms of help. -- -- -- commercials on TV about a whole array of physical health issues some of them very personal. And yes. We whisper about -- operations. Can avoid asking too many questions. Brands of body part -- we -- know less about. There should be no shame in discussing or seeking. Help for treatable illnesses the fact to many people that we law. We've got to get rid of that embarrassment we've got to get rid of that stigma. Too many Americans who struggle with mental health illnesses are still suffering in silence. Rather than seeking help and we need to see it that men and women who would never hesitate to go see -- doctor of day. I had a broken armor came down with the flu. That they have. That same attitude when it comes to their mental health. And we see in veterans who come home. From the battlefield. With the invisible wounds of war. But who feel somehow that seeking treatment. Is a sign of weakness when in fact it's a -- strike. We see it and parents who would do anything for their kids. But too often fight their mental health battle along the -- the reaching out would somehow reflect -- -- -- we see it in the tragedies that we have part of format. Now I want to be absolutely clear. Overwhelming majority of people who suffer from mental illnesses are not violent they will never pose a threat to themselves or others. And there are a lot of violent people -- -- possible mental health issues. We also know that most suicides each -- involve someone within. Mental health -- Substance abuse disorder and some cases when -- condition goes untreated it can lead to tragedy on lower scale. We can do something about stories like -- Many cases treatment is available and effective. We and help people who suffer from a mental illness continue to be great colleagues great friends. Of them. The people we law. We can take out some -- and then give them. A new sense of. Hope. But requires all of us to act. And there are few ways that we can to our power first. We've got to do a better job of recognizing mental health issues in our children. The -- -- for Americans of all ages to seek help. Today less than 40%. Of people -- mental illness -- receive treatment. Less than 40%. Even all three quarters of mental illnesses emerge by the end of by the age of 24. Only about half -- children with mental health problems receive treatment. Nothing about we wouldn't accept it if only 40% of Americans. With cancers got treatment. We -- -- of only half of young people with diabetes got help. Why should we accept -- comes tomorrow. Does make any sense. The good news is there are plenty of groups that are stepping up to change that. So a former colleague of mine Gordon Smith. Former Republican senator losses sun to suicide ten years ago. And I remember him speaking so eloquently about. Gordon is now the head of the National Association of Broadcasters and today. And the National Association of Broadcasters is announcing a new campaign designed to change attitudes. About mental illness through TV ads and social media because Gordon doesn't want. Other parents to go through the agonizing loss. That he's in to work. So we thank you Gordon for -- work. Got secondary school principals who are holding assemblies on mental health -- organizations like YMCA. Who -- volunteering to train staff to recognize the signs of depression and other mental illnesses. In our young people. -- leaders from different faith communities. Who are getting their congregations involved. And dozens of other organizations. Today made. Similar commitments so we're very thankful to all of you. There -- other people who -- leading by example. My great friend Patrick Kennedy. When he was running for reelection back in 2006 he could've avoided talking about his struggles with -- bipolar disorder and addiction. Let's face it is a candidate. He was. Missing was pretty safe. -- loved him. And yet. Patrick used. His experiences way to connect. And and and to lift up these issues not hide from. And and one day a woman came up 22 Patrick at a at a senior center and told him. She was afraid to tell her friends she was taking medication for. A mental illness because that. -- were there might -- differently. -- Patrick you're the only one who knows aside for months. And so Patrick -- realizing. How much power there could be for people who. Speak out on these issues and Patrick carried the -- is back -- -- to Washington where he worked with a bipartisan group of lawmakers including his dad to make sure mental health services you get through your insurance plan. At work work. Cover the same way that physical health services are. -- -- -- So good because of Patrick's efforts and in the colleagues who worked -- them it's easier for millions of people. To join him on on the road to recover. -- which brings me to a second. It's not enough to help more Americans seek treatment we also have to make sure of the treatment is there when the -- to -- it. For years and our mental health system has struggled to serve people who. -- -- -- That's why under the Affordable Care Act were expanding mental health and substance abuse benefits for more than sixty million Americans. New health issues. New health insurance plans are required to cover things like depression -- for adults and behavioral assessments for children. And beginning next your insurance companies will no longer be able to deny anybody coverage because of a preexisting. Mental health condition. We're also. Are also investing in science. And basic research. To make it easier to diagnose. And treat disease -- out. And earlier this year I announced an ambitious initiative to develop tools for mapping. The human brain which could help scientists and researchers. Unlock the answers to conditions. That a fact now. Were also -- more to support our troops. Our veterans were suffering from things like traumatic brain disorder her which my brain injury or PT -- posttraumatic stress disorder. -- today we lose 22 veterans. A day to suicide. Point two. We've got to do a better job -- that -- -- These these. All too often silent tragedies. That's why we poured an enormous amount of resources in the high quality care and better treatment for our troops. And today. Under -- perish in -- leadership the VA's going even further. They're partnering with 24 communities in nine states. To help reduce wait times from veterans seeking mental health care. And there they've met their goal of hiring 16100. New mental health providers. Which means this summer there gonna. Hold more than -- 150 summits like this one in communities all across the country so that every one of our service members and veterans understand. Just like you take -- yourselves and each other on the battlefield -- -- got to do the same thing all battlefield. That's part of -- -- strong. -- for many people who suffer from mental illness recovery can be challenging. But what helps more than anything. What -- so many of our friends and loved -- strength is the knowledge that you're not alone. You're not alone. You're surrounded by people who care about you and who will support you on the journey to get well. We're here for you and that's what this conference is about. -- these issues are so important. So. There's -- out there whose western. If you're struggling. Seek help. You. Thank you know somebody -- who has -- -- -- -- Remember the family members. Who shoulder their own burdensome and needs our support as well. And more than anything what people were suffering some -- that recovery is possible or not alone. There's hope. There's possibility. -- and and that's what all of you represented with the extraordinary advocacy and work for you -- done so thank you all for being here let's do everything we can. To help our fellow Americans feel on trial. And now I'd like to turn over to secretary Sebelius who will be leading our opening. President Obama -- -- national conference on mental health he said one in five American. From mental health issues and he wants the stigma around mental health and race so that those who need help won't get it. He wants mental health care to be covered in the average health care plan as -- as physical. There is. He spoke of the investments being made in science and mapping the human brain as well as in better treatment for our troops and that trend. He said today 22 veterans and de commit suicide. Record the president called unacceptable. There were some big names in the audience today including Bradley Cooper Oakland -- and -- what Glenn Close -- and Patrick Kennedy the president addressed directly during his address. For more on this mental health conference go to abcnews.com. I'm Tanya ribeiro in new York and this has been an ABC news digital special reports. This has been a special report from the.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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