Editor’s Note: Upon much deliberation, our team of editors has decided to award the 2018 Champion of Mental Health to
Each year, Shrink Tank puts the spotlight on one well-known person who has used his or her platform to educate people about mental illness, encourage others to find good treatment, or destigmatize. We call this honor our “Champion of Mental Health.”
This year’s winner, Michelle Obama, has done all three.
Michelle Obama has had the honor and privilege of carrying many titles, some of which include an author, a lawyer, and of course, the former First Lady of the United States.
That said, calling her the 2018 Champion of Mental Health was an easy decision.
She utilizes her powerful platform for advocacy.
Michelle Obama has used her platform as the former First Lady on numerous occasions to bring awareness to mental health. As the First Lady, she was outspoken about the mental and emotional well-being of children, veterans, and self-care. She has been praised for normalizing and removing the negative stigma that is associated with mental health conditions.
“The stigma around talking about mental health and getting help for it just doesn’t make any sense,” she told The Huffington Post. “This is an issue that affects us all.”
She was the keynote speaker for a summit in Washington DC that brought awareness to the challenges of mental health called Change Direction. The goal of Change Direction is to change the culture of mental health in America so that all of those in need receive the care and support they deserve.
“The stigma around talking about mental health and getting help for it just doesn’t make any sense. This is an issue that affects us all.”
The campaign encourages all Americans to pay attention to their emotional well-being – and it reminds us that our mental health is just as important as our physical health.
She embraces her own vulnerability.
In her recent memoir Becoming, Michelle Obama reveals her experience with having a miscarriage. She embraces a level of vulnerability that few would be comfortable with sharing to close family—let alone the world.
As someone who has suffered through the pain of a miscarriage— including the uncertainty of ever becoming a mother and the questioning of my overall womanhood—Obama’s honest depiction about her journey to motherhood is something that can resonate with many women.
“Maybe I was just feeling the acute burden of being female,” Obama’s memoir states. “Either way, he was gone, and I was here, carrying the responsibility.”
She is exposed and angry, filled with resentment from feeling like she is dealing with this alone since Barack was campaigning. This open display of raw human emotion makes her undoubtedly real. This is something that others with similar platforms of influence have been reluctant to share, so her openness should be celebrated.
“This open display of raw human emotion undoubtedly makes her real.”
For women who know they’re pregnant, about 10 to 15 in 100 pregnancies (10 to 15 percent) end in miscarriage. Most miscarriages happen in the first trimester before the 12th week of pregnancy. Miscarriage in the second trimester (between 13 and 19 weeks) happens in 1 to 5 in 100 (1 to 5 percent) pregnancies.
As many as half of all pregnancies may end in miscarriage. We don’t know the exact number because a miscarriage may happen before a woman knows she’s pregnant. Most women who miscarry go on to have a healthy pregnancy later, such was the case for Michelle and Barack.
She’s helping to define life as a black woman in America.
When Barack was elected in 2008, this was more than a monumental occasion for a Black man to be elected. For both black women and little black girls to be seen in a light that historically in America was not offered to us. Recently my six-year-old little girl asked me, “Mommy, are all the presidents white?” With great pride, I told her that “No, our last president, Barack Obama, was black.”
She and I started to do research, and we watch tons of videos of the Obamas. She watched the videos and she was filled with joy and when said: “Mommy, Michelle looked like you. Sasha and Malia looked like me.”
I was beside myself. While I knew what having a black family in the White House meant to me personally, there was no way I could have imagined its impact on me ten years later as a mother to my six-year-old little black girl.
“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.”
Michelle Obama’s experiences as a black woman are not that different from my own experiences. Peers told her she spoke “like a white girl”—a statement that I am all too well familiar with. I took comfort knowing that Michelle Obama’s inclusion of this topic in Becoming is relatable—for many black women in America.
She’s just another mother.
It is easy for me and others to view Michelle as a superhuman mother, but this is not the picture she depicts at all.
As the First Lady, it was clear that her children came first.
The Obamas did make an original decision when it came to raising their children in the White House. In order to help manage the young girls, Michelle moved her mother Marian Robinson to the White House. It was clear that the Obamas wanted their children to have as close to a normal childhood as possible.
Her priorities were always on caring for her children, as well as the children of America. After the mass shooting in Newton, she described her mental state as being “so shaken by it that I had no strength available to lend.”
After that senseless tragedy, mothers all around the world experienced a collective defeat. The feeling like we can’t even keep our youngest and most defenseless children safe was anguishing for all, even Michelle Obama.
Thank you Michelle Obama, for your courageous honesty in Becoming, and for showing us your vulnerability, strength, and advocacy for mental health.
On behalf of all of us at Shrink Tank, we are proud to award Michelle Obama the 2018 Champion of Mental Health Award.