First lady Michelle ObamaMichelle ObamaReport: Bush called Trump's inauguration speech 'some weird s--t' Obama to travel to South Pacific island to work on memoir: report Obama and Trump haven’t talked since inauguration MORE is calling for a stronger focus on ending the stigma surrounding mental illnesses, which she said is preventing people from getting treatment.
“We should make it clear that getting help isn't a sign of weakness — it's a sign of strength — and we should ensure that people can get the treatment they need,” Obama wrote in an op-ed published Wednesday in the Huffington Post.
The first lady, who has become a champion for physical activity and nutrition, urged people to consider their mental health to be just as important.
If untreated, she warned, mental illnesses can lead to otherwise preventable outcomes like suicide, telling the story of a young Navy veteran who tried to end his life but instead sought help.
“Sadly, too often, the stigma around mental health prevents people who need help from seeking it,” she wrote.
She called for the nation to get more aware of the signs of mental health issues, and for a willingness to have the “tough conversations” with people who might be suffering.
Obama announced earlier this year she would be taking on the complex issue of mental health as part of her “Campaign to Change Direction.”
The Obama administration has sought to increase access to mental health care as part of the Affordable Care Act.
Mental health reform is also inching closer to reality in the GOP-led Congress, which has been long divided on the politically tough issue.
Health officials have also recently partnered with the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee for a bipartisan bill that has been in the works since last year. The Senate committee plans to mark up that bill next month.
In the House, Republican leaders have for years been stalled on a mental health bill that they have billed as a response to the 2012 shooting in Newtown, Conn. Its sponsor, Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), has said talks are accelerating on the bill this year, with new discussions with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell.