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Transcript of President Obama’s Remarks at the National Conference on Mental Health

This is an edited transcript of President Obama’s remarks to the participants of the National Conference on Mental Health, held in the White House on June 3, 2013. Our coverage of the National Conference on Mental Health will continue here tomorrow with a summary of the conference.


President Obama:  Thank you so much. Everybody please have a seat. Thank you so much. Welcome to the White House. Thank you Janelle for that introduction and sharing your story and making such a difference through your organization. We’re really proud to have you here. I want to thank Secretary Sebelius, Secretary Arnie Duncan, Secretary Eric Shinseki, for their leadership and helping organizing this event. I also want to acknowledge some outstanding members of congress who are here and who care deeply about this issue.

Finally, I want to thank all of you for participating in this National Conference on Mental Health. We wanted to bring together folks who suffered from mental illness, and families who supported them. We wanted to bring together advocates and educators, faith leaders, veterans, local officials.

3 Comments to
Transcript of President Obama’s Remarks at the National Conference on Mental Health

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  1. Is America going to invest in the psychosocial tools to build the foundation that can maximally impact on the needs of the mentally ill beyond just the monies for more drugs?

    End Homelessness? Find realistic employment options for those genuinely willing to work. Maximize access to healthy diets for those who want to eat right? Good start, right?

    Communities rise and maintain their roles in promoting education, minimizing destructive and selfish behaviors, zero tolerance for substance abuse including tobacco, and supporting those in the community with limited resources so families can feel empowered and become more self sufficient once back on their feet?

    Minimize dependency in a global attitude, refute entitlement, reject self serving agendas that only benefits small groups while denying the needs of the many?

    These are just some of the questions and true goals that can empower and impact positively on mental health issues. Do we have true, honest leadership that can step up to a podium and ask even more brutally than Kennedy did 50 some years ago:

    “Ask not what your country owes you and should do for you, but, finally ask yourself what are the healthy and appropriate choices you and those close to you need to make and strive to pursue that not only benefit you, but your neighbors, your community, your city, state, and country. Are you ready to have some pain to sacrifice to know it will have a strong and lasting impact for years to come if you can endure the hardship, short term loss, and hard work to experience growth and satisfaction to keep you motivated.

    Can you accept there are no real long lasting quick fixes that government has sold more and more these past 30 plus years? And if I do not represent you in these challenges and efforts, I respect you in not reelecting me for further terms in office.”

    If ANY politician came up and said this publicly and meant it and showed by further deeds they practiced it, I would honestly be stunned and fall to my knees in shock. Because it won’t happen as the status quo is now. We don’t elect people to tell us the truth, to hold us accountable, to ask us to be honest and respectful to others as much as to ourselves. It is a dog and pony show, and, in my opinion, we are electing and reelecting more characterologically impaired people who become entrenched and just harm us in the end.

    Deeds not words define us. Conferences or blue ribbon commissions are nice today, but, what do they accomplish in true, effective change weeks or months later?

    Money and power are the addictions and driving forces to this country at the end of the day. And your “representation” is exhibit A of this process.

    Hey, brutal commentary, but, if I am wrong, all of you who dissent will not only prove me wrong, but, make this country better for not only the mentally ill, but for all interested in healthy change across this society.

    Not holding my breath waiting for it to start!

  2. I have to battling for years against the prejudice surrounding varying states of “mental health”. I refuse to call differing stages of mental/emotion functioning as “mental illness”. The term is degrading, and results in negative self fulfilling prophecies. I think it’s healthy to assume that everyone’s mental health is a function of emotive life events and sufficient coping skills. Those who face challenging life events without coping skills will likely flounder, whereas another individual with coping skills could scale the awful events and emerge relatively whole. Therefore, mentall illness s a moot point, a form of lablling to categorise those unable to cope with adversity, yet the term has little to do with actual “mental illness” which is likely to be more neuro-organic in nature, rather than a deficit in coping skills.

  3. Hello,

    I agree wholeheartedly with Dr. Hassman. I have suffered from mental illness for most of my life, only to be diagnosed in the last ten years. I live at the bottom of the pile. Living on your medicare/medicaid(medi-cal in California which they are talking of cutting due to financial constraints.) Social Security pays barely under $900 a month and somehow, someway we are supposed to survive on this. I am unable to get food stamps because I make too much…I had to apply for SSI (extra help for those of you who don’t know) SSI gave me $6.00 a month, and took away my food stamps of a whole $24.00 dollars a month. I am scared to death everyday to hear what the latest cut being made is. I require in home support services….they cut the hours there. The food banks, if you have been to one, you know what you get…all the food from the groceries that are expired or ‘just’ about to go out of date. So you have a day to two days to try to eat the food that they do give you. You usually end up having to throw more than half of it away because the bread molds, the salad becomes rotted and so on…

    I am used to the way people treat you that don’t understand mental illness, they think you are ‘gaming’ the government to get money for free. I’m too lazy to get a job and work. I don’t understand how people can think that you would want to live under these circumstances. My insurance won’t approve the sessions I need with my therapist. The psychiatrists that I have on my HMO plan are from the bottom of the barrel and do not take the time to know your case in the least, you become a number and they have you in and out of their office w/in 15 minutes flat. It is very rare to find a good psychiatrist or psychologist. The ‘Senior Advantage Plans’ are supposed to give you more benefits like vision and dental that medicare does not provide. The doctor list is pretty minimal. I need to have plastic surgery and there are four doctors on my list I have to choose from. I asked to see a doctor that is covered by the sister plan to my insurance (a simple PA would allow it) and I was told they would deny it. I would have to switch plans entirely in order to go to a reputable Dr that I trusted in the field. Then I loose the Dr’s that has taken me so long to find with the limited resources that they have given me. I have dental work that I have to have done…my teeth are going to begin to rot if I do not have basic crown work and preventative dental work that is not covered, and what is covered is so minimal and with my check of $890 a month, there is no way I can afford to pay $3 to $4 thousand dollars to get them done. Everyone I know that is on disability is in the same shoes I am. We are all scared to death, wondering what is going to be cut next. How much are they going to cut our earnings as they have already cut that down too. President Obama gave a wonderful speech about how people should be earning at least $10 something an hour, we on social security the elderly, the VA’s and the disabled are making around $2 something an hour!!! Smiles….and they say…it’s just gonna get worse. My day in the life…..



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