The National Conference on Mental Health
01:34 PM EDT
Nationally, an estimated 45 million Americans suffer from illnesses like depression, schizophrenia or post-traumatic stress syndrome.
And today, the White House hosted a day-long conference with health care experts, psychologists, faith leaders, advocates for veterans, and a host of administration officials to kick off a national conversation about mental health in the United States.
"We all know somebody -- a family member, a friend, a neighbor -- who has struggled or will struggle with mental health issues at some point in their lives," President Obama said as he opened the gathering.
The conference focused on ways we can all work together to reduce stigma and help the millions of Americans struggling with mental health problems recognize the importance of reaching out for assistance, as President Obama explained:
We know that recovery is possible, we know help is available, and yet, as a society, we often think about mental health differently than other forms of health. You see commercials on TV about a whole array of physical health issues, some of them very personal. And yet, we whisper about mental health issues and avoid asking too many questions.
The brain is a body part too; we just know less about it. And there should be no shame in discussing or seeking help for treatable illnesses that affect too many people that we love. 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 a doctor if they had a broken arm or came down with the flu, that they have that same attitude when it comes to their mental health.
Today’s conference is just one part of the Obama administration’s effort to raise awareness and improve care for Americans experiencing mental health issues. The Affordable Care Act is expanding mental health coverage for millions of Americans, we're working to improve access to mental health services for veterans, and we're supporting initiatives to help educators recognize and refer students who show signs of mental illness.
In addition, today the administration launched a new website -- mentalhealth.gov -- aimed at providing resources for those suffering from mental illness and sharing success stories from those who've received treatment.
But this isn't something the government can do alone -- and knowing that, President Obama applauded a number of commitments from private sector and nonprofit organizations that will help raise awareness, teach students and educators about mental health, give health care providers tools they need, combat stigma, and encourage conversation. Read more about those commitments here.
"For many people who suffer from a mental illness, recovery can be challenging," President Obama said. "But what helps more than anything, what gives so many of our friends and loved ones strength, is the knowledge that you are 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."