TIME health

What Americans Can Learn From Obama on Mental Health

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President Barack Obama greets members of the American Legion after speaking at the American Legion's 96th National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, August 26, 2014. SAUL LOEB—AFP/Getty Images

We must broaden the scope of our efforts beyond the military and veteran community

President Obama addressed the American Legion’s 96th National Convention on Tuesday and outlined five priorities to “fulfill our promises to service members, veterans, and their families.” These priorities include: delivering the quality health care veterans have been promised, ensuring all veterans have every opportunity to pursue the American Dream, providing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs with the resources our veterans deserve, protecting the dignity and rights of all veterans and eliminating the decades-old disability claims backlog.

From early in his administration, our President has demonstrated his concern for and commitment to our military and veteran families. He has made numerous speeches at military installations, praising the sacrifices of our troops and pledging his support. He has acknowledged his respect and admiration for those who wear the uniform during his State of the Union Addresses, often inviting injured service members and their families to join the First Lady in the Capitol to watch the address. In 2012 he issued an Executive Order titled “Improving Access to Mental Health Service for Veterans, Service Members and Military Families,” which paved the way for greater communication and coordination among government agencies while creating several specific initiatives and programs to increase access to care and improve the provision of services. And in June 2013, a primary focus of his National Conference on Mental Health was on the unique mental health challenges facing our military and veteran community.

Our First Lady shares the President’s commitment. In the spring of 2009, five months into the administration, I was invited to a meeting at the White House hosted by the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden. The purpose of the gathering was to learn about the issues affecting our service members, veterans and their families from the organizations that support them and to ask for suggestions regarding how the First Lady and Dr. Biden might best use their platform to assist these worthy men, women and families. This meeting, and several that followed, provided the foundation for what would become the First Lady and Dr. Biden’s Joining Forces initiative, which focuses on three key areas of support for military families: employment, education and wellness.

Tuesday’s speech by the President made reference to several new executive actions designed to serve the military and veteran community – many of which focus on improving the mental health and wellness of those who struggle, those who suffer and those who are at risk of suicide. During perhaps the most inspiring moment of the speech, President Obama proclaimed:

“And maybe most of all, we’re going to keep saying loud and clear to anyone out there who’s hurting, it is not a sign of weakness to ask for help; it is a sign of strength. Talk to a friend. Pick up the phone. You are not alone. We are here for you. And every American needs to know if you see someone in uniform or a veteran who is struggling, reach out and help them to get help. They were there for America. We now need to be there for them.”

Our President has done an excellent job of setting the table for us. He has provided leadership and directed resources. He has made it clear that the mental health and wellness of those who serve and their families is a priority for his administration and for America. His staff has consistently reached out to the community of organizations that engage and support our military and veteran community, asking for feedback and seeking opportunities for partnership and collaboration. Some might suggest that this has all been politically motivated – sadly so much of what seems to happen in Washington these days certainly is – but to those of us who have had the honor of working alongside our colleagues at the White House over the years on these issues, it has been clear from early on that that this sustained effort is genuine.

But while the President’s leadership is absolutely critical for success, we will need more than his commitment if we hope to ensure the mental health and wellness of those who serve and their families. We must broaden the scope of our efforts and look beyond the military and veteran community. The stigma associated with mental illness is a huge problem within our society – a problem that we must address if we hope to reduce the number of service members and veterans who choose suicide every day. How can we expect those who serve – given their training on self reliance, their value on mental toughness and their focus on serving others – to step forward and ask for help if they are depressed, anxious or suicidal when so few among us in the civilian community do so comfortable or openly. It was a little over two weeks ago that Robin Williams’ suicide sent shock waves and overwhelming sadness across our nation. Robin Williams – who was so beloved, so talented, so smart – was unable to ask for help in his darkest hour. He was unable to let those he loved know that he was in danger. How horribly sad and lonely he must have felt – how terribly distressed and alone so many in our nation feel every day.

We must change our culture if we are to succeed in saving lives and ending suffering. We must come to accept that mental health and mental illness are elements of the human condition – just as physical health and disease are – not just within our military culture but for all Americans. We must use opportunities like the one that the President has given us to harness support, roll up our sleeves and do the heavy lift required that will change the conversation in America about mental health. Perhaps one positive outcome of the last 13 years of war can be an end to the stigma associated with mental health and mental illness. Perhaps our service members and our veterans will once again lead America and serve as examples of courage, acceptance and compassion for self and others.

Barbara Van Dahlen, named to the TIME 100 in 2012, is a licensed clinical psychologist and the founder and president of Give an Hour. A notable expert on the psychological impact of war on troops and families, Dr. Van Dahlen has become a thought leader in mobilizing civilian constituencies in support of active duty service members, veterans and their families.

TIME Mental health/Psycholog

4 Signs Your Body Image Isn’t Healthy

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Last week, Tallulah Willis—daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore—bravely shared her struggles with body dysmorphic disorder in a video for StyleLikeU. “I’m diagnosed [with] body dysmorphia,” Willis, 20, told the fashion blog. “[My biggest insecurity] is my face. That’s where my diagnosis came into play. Because of the position I was born into, I would read these things on the Internet and I was like, well, Why would someone write that if there wasn’t some basis for truth out there?”

“It was something I never wanted to say out loud because it was so painful.” Willis goes on to talk about how hearing mean comments about her face drove her to dress provocatively and lose a lot of weight, thinking she could draw the attention to her body instead. “I started starving myself,” she says. “I got down to 95 pounds.”

Health.com: 10 Signs You May Have OCD

This is exactly why body dysmorphic disorder (or BDD) can be so difficult to diagnose, explains Health contributing psychology editor Gail Saltz, MD. “Disordered eating can be a symptom of it, but there is no surefire sign. What body dysmorphic disorder really means is that you are so preoccupied with either a real (but slight) or imagined imperfection that you become consumed by it.”

Plenty of healthy people have a body hang-up or two that makes very little sense (mine’s my fat ankles, full disclosure), so how do you know when someone you love is really struggling? Here are four ways to recognize body dysmorphia.

They always need reassurance about that one thing

“Most people who have body dysmorphia are not going to talk about it openly because they feel a lot of shame,” Dr. Saltz says. “But sometimes, it’s a friend who keeps asking you repeatedly for reassurance about this one body part.” If supportive comments like “No, your arms aren’t fat, really!” or “No, your nose is beautiful” don’t seem to make them feel even a little better, that could be a red flag.

Health.com: 12 Signs You May Have an Anxiety Disorder

They dress in a way that doesn’t make sense

Obviously, you don’t have to agree with every style choice your friends make, but think twice if she’s dressing in a way that suggests she’s trying to compensate for that one thing. “For example, she’s putting on a tent of a dress and saying it’s to hide her belly that doesn’t exist,” Dr. Saltz says. Or in the case of Tallulah Willis, she mentioned that she would wear short-shorts and push-up bras in a bid to shift attention away from her face.

Health.com: 12 Ways We Sabotage Our Mental Health

They go to extremes

“Dysmorphia fits in with this constellation of anxiety disorders like obsessive compulsive disorder,” explains Dr. Saltz. “It’s a compulsion that gets in the way of your life.” So in the same way that no amount of hand washing satisfies a person with OCD, no amount of “fixing” seems to help people with BDD. Some patients may even get plastic surgery, and then still think they need more work done after they’ve healed, while others try a progressively restricted diet to lose, say, an imagined double chin.

Health.com: 7 Strategies to Love the Way You Look

They’re hiding out

“The thing separating a normal insecurity from a problem with body dysmorphia is how much it affects your ability to function,” Dr. Saltz explains. If you notice that that she’s not going out as much, or she doesn’t want to date, or maybe she’s turned down a promotion because she doesn’t want to have to give presentations, those are signs her body issues are getting in the way of her life.

Amelia Harnish is an Associate Editor at Health.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME celebrity

WATCH: Hollywood Reacts to Death of Robin Williams

Comedians, actors and entertainers pay tribute to the late star

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Like the rest of the nation, actors, comedians and entertainers were shocked by the sudden death of superstar talent Robin Williams. Celebrity reactions to his apparent suicide have flooded media both social and traditional, with many paying tribute to their own personal relationships with the late star.

Steve Martin referred to him as a great talent and a genuine soul. Kathy Griffin tweeted of how every moment shared with Williams was a pivotal one, and that it was a comic’s dream to be in his presence. Judd Apatow wrote about the lengths he went to simply be near the legendary comic, saying that he took an internship at Comic Relief at the age of 18 in order to work with Williams.

Billy Crystal wrote poignantly, “No words.”

Other comedians such as Jimmy Kimmel and Chelsea Handler marked the tragedy by attempting to raise awareness of depression, telling those in need of support to not be afraid to reach out for help, and to remain strong.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

5 Things I Learned When I Quit Facebook

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I have a Facebook problem.

The problem is, I love Facebook. I love posting about my day, connecting with friends near and far, and seeing the funny/crazy/sweet things people share. But I also hate Facebook, for being such a time suck, for making me feel bad about myself when other people’s lives seem so much more exciting than mine, and for leading me to spend more time interacting with a screen than with the real world. And when I log off Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are there clamoring for my attention, a never-ending scroll of links and tweets and photos and conversations that feels impossible to keep up with.

A few weeks ago, I’d had it. It seemed like social media was bringing me more guilt and frustration than happiness. So I decided to go on a fast, starting immediately. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Health.com: 27 Mistakes Healthy People Make

Cold turkey was the way to go

I’ve made attempts to cut down before, setting rules like “Only check Facebook first thing in the morning” or “Only check Twitter during lunch” or, when I came back to work after maternity leave, “Only use social media while pumping breast milk.” But one quick check in the morning always turned into needing to get back on at 11am to see if anyone commented on that one post, which turned into composing witty replies to those comments, which turned into OMG I’m late for that meeting! I had no self-control. Cutting myself off from social media completely was the only way to ensure I’d stay honest. I even deleted the Facebook app from my phone.

Health.com: 22 Ways to Boost Your Happiness—Instantly

The FOMO wasn’t as bad as I’d feared

Yes, I missed a bunch of birthdays, and yes, I would have missed the news of a former coworker’s engagement if another friend hadn’t seen the post and clued me in. But to my surprise, even from day 1 of my fast, I didn’t feel like I was truly missing out on anything. My best friend from high school texted me cute pictures of her 2-year-old. I caught up with people over email or even on the phone (remember that?). I checked my favorite news sites for the day’s headlines. I was good.

What I wasn’t getting: constant updates about the awesome vacations people were taking (making me feel like a boring homebody), or the amazing educational activities they’d planned for their kids (making me feel like a slacker mom), or the IMPORTANT POLITICAL THING WE SHOULD ALL TAKE ACTION ON NOW that inevitably devolved into a nasty name-calling flame war (making me feel tired). I didn’t miss any of that at all.

Facebook, on the other hand, seemed to think I was missing out big-time. Since day 3 of no Facebook, I’ve been getting increasingly desperate daily emails like this one…

Health.com: 14 Reasons You’re Always Tired

I was way more productive

I had never realized how often during the workday I clicked on Facebook out of sheer habit—I caught myself typing in the URL on autopilot way too many times that first Facebook-free day. But the real shocker was how much more I got done at home, when my evenings no longer disappeared into a black hole of sitting on the couch scrolling through my feeds. I read actual books! I made a quilt! I worked out! It was almost embarrassing how much time I suddenly had on my hands.

I was more present

When I wasn’t constantly thinking about how to describe every moment in a perfect tweet or status update, I got to actually live the moment. I took pictures of my kids just for me, rather than for a filtered-and-framed Instagram shot. When we went to the beach or had dinner with friends, I savored the experience for itself, not for how good it would make me look when I posted about it.

Health.com: 12 Surprising Causes of Depression

I might be cured of my Facebook addiction

I stayed on total social media blackout for two full weeks. Then I decided to let myself hop back on Instagram once, to post a photo of the Lightning McQueen cake I made for my son’s birthday. A few days later, I started sending out a few tweets. But Facebook…oh, Facebook, you ultimate time-suck. I was really worried that I would get back on Facebook and immediately fall back into my old ways. Was it even possible for me to use Facebook in a healthy way?

Last night I got on Facebook, for the first time in more than three weeks. I scrolled through my feed for about five minutes. And then…I closed my browser. I put away my laptop. And I went to bed. And I don’t really feel like going back.

It turns out my Facebook addiction was just a (really) bad habit. By interrupting the habit, I might have broken the cycle. I won’t quit Facebook completely—all those things I love about it haven’t changed. But now that I know I can go without it entirely, it seems easy to limit myself to just checking in, say, twice a week. Wish me luck!

Health.com: 22 Ways to Boost Your Happiness—Instantly

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

Jeannie Kim is the Executive Deputy Editor at Health.

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