Friday, January 20, 2017

My Open Letter to President Obama: Thank You

President Barack Obama will always have a place in my heart because he inspired my drive to bring mental health awareness to my own communities. He personally inspired me to come out of my shell. In June 3, 2013, he stated at the National Conference on Mental Health, "Too many Americans who struggle with mental illness suffer in silence rather than seek help." That's when I realized that I needed to speak out & share my own story. So 1 month later at a legislative briefing on Asian American mental health, I stated, “I will not end my life because I have a story to share. The more we talk about mental health, the more we will alleviate the stigma. There is NO shame. There is NO shame.” That marked the beginning of my grassroots advocacy to work towards alleviating the stigma on mental illness so that others would know that they are not alone in their struggles. #MentalHealthMatters #ObamaFarewell#YesWeCan

Because Obama was such an inspiration to me, I finally got around to writing my letter to him on January 11, 2017. This is what I wrote... 

Dearest President Barack Obama,

I've been meaning to write this letter for you for a long time, but am finally doing it now since you will be leaving the White House oval office soon. I want to tell you that you have been one of the most inspirational presidents to me in my lifetime.

I have lived with depression & anxiety for most of my life. However, I found the courage to come out of my shell after I had found out that at the National Conference on Mental Health on June 3, 2013, you stated, "Too many Americans who struggle with mental illness suffer in silence rather than seek help."
That was when I realized that I needed to speak out & share my own story.
So in July 2013 at a legislative briefing on Asian American mental health, I publicly stated, “I will not end my life because I have a story to share. The more we talk about mental health, the more we will alleviate the stigma. There is no shame. There is NO shame.” That was my public vow that I would never die by suicide. It also marked the beginning of my grassroots advocacy to work towards alleviating the stigma on mental illness so that others would know that they are not alone in their struggles.

Since then, for these last 3.5 years, I've been working tirelessly with limited funding towards creating a more loving, compassionate & accepting community by bringing mental health education wherever I go. I have spent much of my time volunteering for various organizations, staying engaged in state-level advocacy, organizing community mental health educational opportunities through facilitating support groups & conferences, and have accumulated more than 100 speaking engagements. As a representative for the California Mental Health Movement "Each Mind Matters" and National Alliance on Mental Illness, I share my story in order to alleviate the stigma on mental health, inspire others to find meaning in their life struggles & explain how precious each person is despite their life challenges. I speak to audiences of high school & college students, school administrators, teachers, families, law enforcement, faith-based communities, healthcare & mental health professionals. During my speeches, I even mention how you inspired me to become more vocal for the cause. Here 2 videos I share when I go out and share my message of mental health awareness: http://bit.ly/25vmP06 & http://bit.ly/2czim9z

Thanks again for your messages of hope, & I hope I may have the honor of meeting you one day.
Emily Wu Truong

One week later, I received this response from The White House... 


Thanks to First Lady Michelle Obama too for her contributions to the dialogue to ending the silence and creating more dialogues around mental health, mental illness & suicide. She said a few words of support for the Mental Health Movement at the SAMHSA's Voice Awards



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