• Health

The Campaign to Make Mental Health a Priority

2 minute read

It’s easy to spot signs of physical pain: a gash, a rash, a dramatic clutch at the chest. Much murkier is emotional distress, which can be easily masked and may feel taboo to talk about, no matter how close you are to someone. “We don’t tend to have conversations about mental well-being,” says Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, a clinical psychologist and founder of a new national campaign, Change Direction, that launched on March 4. It’s an effort–backed by various business leaders, agencies and the First Lady–to bring into the open discussions about mental health and to teach people the common ways mental distress tends to show up. Roughly 19% of adults experience a diagnosable mental-health issue, federal data shows, and countless more go through a tough time without talking about it. Simply asking someone “How are you–really?” will yield more than a rote answer, says Van Dahlen. “It’s an entrée into what could lead to somebody getting help they’re afraid to ask for,” she adds. That help could be meditation or medication, talk therapy or just talking it out. The most important thing, says Van Dahlen, is that people know it’s O.K. to not always be O.K.

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Write to Mandy Oaklander at mandy.oaklander@time.com