First Lady Michelle Obama, MoCo Nonprofit Changing The Story of Mental Health In America (VIDEO)

Know the five signs. That was the message at the kick off of “Changing Direction on Mental Health” campaign where more than forty organizations, including Montgomery County’s Umttr, pledged to change the story about mental health in America.

Umttr and other local leaders partnered with Given an Hour- a nonprofit founded to meet the mental health needs of military personnel and the event’s main sponsor- at the campaign’s launching on March 4 at the Newseum in D.C.

Special guests included First Lady Michelle Obama, Academy Award Winning and Silver Linings Playbook Producer Bruce Cohen, national experts, and leaders from the private sector who have come together to create a new story in America.

“These folks are all coming together to raise awareness about mental health and give people tools to help someone who might be experiencing a mental health issue,” Mrs. Obama said.

First Lady said that mental health care is not just a policy and budget issue for America, but also a cultural issue.

“Whether an illness affects your heart, your leg or your brain, it’s still an illness, and there should be no distinction,” she said.

Mrs. Obama urged Americans to recognize the five signs of emotional suffering such as withdrawal, agitation, hopelessness, decline in personal care, and change in personality.

“My personal pledge is definitely just to continue to get that word out. Because clearly is everybody is looking out for this signs. If everybody can keep an open eye to help out [then] we are well in our way to our goal,” Elliot Thaker, senior at Winston Churchill High School.

umtter3Founder of Umttr, Susan Rosenstock said it was “a monumental day.” It’s been almost three years since Susan’s son, Evan, took his life.

A group of Evan’s friends told Susan they wanted to create a movement to end teen suicide. The group pledged to educate seventy thousand students in Montgomery County on suicide prevention.

“This is going to change the way everybody thinks about mental health,” Rosenstock said.

A discussion at the White House National Conference on Mental Health in 2013 inspired the campaign, which also included the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, America’s Promise Alliance, Aetna,, Justice for Vets, the National Council for Behavioral Health, Veteran and Military Business Owners Association, Volunteers of America, Wins For Warriors, Woodley House, and others.

To find out more about Umttr and how to volunteer, click here.

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  • Michelle Obama at ChangeDirection
Aline Barros

About Aline Barros

Aline Barros is a multimedia reporter and community engagement specialist with Montgomery Community Media. She can be reached at and on Twitter at @AlineBarros2.


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