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Notes from the road: Commemorating World Mental Health Day in London

By Mala Adiga and Rory Brosius

Photo: Tinatin Thorp on behalf of Give an Hour

Last week, we had the privilege to visit London and participate in the Global Summit on Mental Health Culture Change, hosted by our partners at Give an Hour and the On World Mental Health Day, Vice President Joe Biden offered remarks at the opening reception for the Summit, held at the House of Commons, in front of a group of mental health leaders, advocates, and experts:

“… we need to make sure that people know that there is help available. We need to ensure they have access to healthcare providers in rural areas or [in places with] few medical facilities, and we need to ensure that insurance policies include mental health. We have to make it clear to all people that there is no stigma in seeking help for a mental health issue.”

The summit attendees came to London with the primary goal of shifting the way we address mental health on a global scale. While the summit wasn’t solely focused on the military community, we had an amazing opportunity to learn from and meet many advocates and leaders who are working on a variety of issues related to mental health.

At the Biden Foundation, we focus our mental health efforts to raise awareness of the issues that face our service members, veterans, and their families. While they aren’t unique in the fact that they can be affected by mental health issues, there are some aspects of the military lifestyle that are a bit different from non-military connected population, such as frequent deployments. We believe it’s important to address those differences, while still recognizing that we can learn from other populations to support and optimize the mental health and wellbeing of our military connected community.

Mental health isn’t just a military family or veteran issue—it’s a human issue. We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health. If we hope to avoid crises, we must treat mental health in the same way that we treat physical health—with proper access to care, supportive workplace and government policies, early intervention and screening, and a greater societal understanding of these issues.

We are excited to work with the Campaign to Change Direction, Give an Hour, and others to promote work that supports the overall health and well-being of service members, veterans, and their families. It is essential that we lower barriers to asking for and receiving help, give people the opportunity to develop shared language around mental health, and provide a platform for people to  share personal mental health stories.

Mala Adiga is the Biden Foundation’s Director for Higher Education and Military Families.

Rory Brosius is the Biden Foundation’s Advisor for Military Families.