On World Mental Health Day, Vice President Joe Biden offered keynote remarks at the Global Summit on Mental Health Culture Change at the House of Commons in London. His remarks, addressed to the crowd of advocates, leaders, and experts, highlighted the need for all people to work together to break down the barriers that keep people from getting the mental health help that they need.
At the Biden Foundation, we are focused on continuing the work begun by the Vice President and Dr. Biden during their time at the White House. A main pillar of our work has been supporting the needs of service members, veterans, and their families — particularly in the areas of military spouse employment, support for military connected children, and mental health and well-being. By championing partners who support this brave and resilient community and using our platform to raise awareness of the challenges they face, we hope to drive progress in the area of mental health support.
This summer, Dr. Jill Biden was named U.S. Patron of Walking with the Wounded’s Walk of America. The Walk of America, a 1000-mile trek across the country undertaken by six U.K. and U.S. veterans, aimed to raise awareness of the invisible wounds of war. During the three-month endeavor, Dr. Biden and Vice President Biden joined the team along the route to learn their stories.
At a breakfast and press briefing in St. Louis, we were all stunned as one member of the team told the audience of his own challenges. Kev Carr, a U.K. Army veteran, shared that one afternoon, after months of struggling with homelessness and depression he contemplated taking his own life. But Kev’s friend saw him struggling and reached out, helping Kev get connected with services. That friend helped him to see that there was hope, and that healing was possible.
Kev’s story demonstrates that there can be significant barriers to asking for and receiving mental healthcare. Things like shame, fear of career repercussions, a lack of supportive policies for those who are ill, low provider capacity, and cultural competency issues can keep people from reaching out when they need help. While these types of challenges exist for the military community, they are absolutely similar to those faced by the civilian community.
Mental health is not just a military issue, it’s a human issue. One in five Americans will live with a diagnosable mental health condition at some point during their lifetime. But, there is so much that we can all do—military and civilian alike— to make sure that people get the support they need to survive and thrive.
Recognizing that early intervention is key in promoting good mental health, the Biden Foundation is proud to amplify the work of organizations like Mental Health America and Give an Hour and public health campaigns like the Campaign to Change Direction. Give an Hour increases capacity to provide free-of-cost mental health care to service members, veterans, and their loved ones, while the Campaign to Change Direction encourages all people to learn the “Five Signs of Emotional Suffering.”
The Five Signs remind us that when someone is struggling, there may be subtle changes that could indicate that a person needs some additional support. We all have a role to play in changing the culture around mental health, and we hope that you will join us in learning the five signs and raising awareness of mental health issues.
In closing his speech in London, the Vice President said of Kev’s bravery in sharing his story, “[Kev] shouldn’t have to be up there alone. He needs our voices, our help. He needs us to stand with him and say no more. No more hiding the pain. No more tragedies.”
Let that be a reminder that we all have a role to play in normalizing mental health and promoting better opportunities for care.
Rory Brosius is Advisor for Military Families at the Biden Foundation.
About the Biden Foundation
The Biden Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation established to carry on Vice President and Dr. Biden’s lifelong commitment to public service. Through educational programming and public policy analysis, the Foundation works to build a world where all people are equal in dignity and opportunity. To stay up to date, visit bidenfoundation.org or follow the foundation on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn.