Remarks by the First Lady at a Back to School Mental Health Roundtable in Westfield, Indiana

August 30, 2023

[As prepared for delivery.]

Thank you, Analiece.

To all the school leaders here—thank you for everything you do to support your students.

Congressman Carson, thank you for your work for the people in this district.

Mayor Cook, I'm grateful for the warm welcome to your city.

Each new school year we stand on the precipice of possibility. Hallways once again overflow with the roar of life—shrieks of excitement shattering the summer calm. Even now, almost a month into classes, that bright, boundless energy still hangs in the air.

But there are some students who can't seem to call upon that same wonder, whose sadness sits just behind their smile, who may be wrestling with anxiety or isolation.

I saw this in my classroom after the pandemic, when it seemed as if so many of my students were struggling to connect more than ever.

I couldn't stop thinking about their distance. It stayed on my mind. How could I help them?

I'm sure a lot of the educators in the room know that feeling. This isn't a job you walk away from at 3:15, is it?

One day I was reading the paper and stumbled upon an article on connection and its importance in our lives.

It talked about small choices we could make each day to open ourselves to the world and to others—to reach for joy. And it got me thinking: how could I bring this into the classroom?

So now, we begin each semester talking about the relationships in our lives: How we can reach out to our friends and strangers alike. How we can ease the stresses we're carrying. How we can find community together. How we can actively reach for joy.

What I've found is that when one person begins to share—others join in, and story after story spills out. And our little community suddenly becomes so much stronger than any of us could ever be alone.

Because in their stories there is resilience: finding a way out of the darkness—through treatment, through community, through storytelling, holding out a hand to pull others through. Families and educators working to support them every step of the way.

And that's what's happening here.

We just heard from a group of amazing young people who founded a chapter of Robbie's Hope on campus, so the students here can help each other through their struggles with mental health.

The founder of Robbie's Hope is here today. Kari I know your grief is a deep scar that will never fully heal. I know what it feels like to be a piece of china that's been glued back together again—the cracks imperceptible, yet still there. Thank you for channeling your pain into purpose. Robbie's legacy lives on here at Westfield and in countless chapters across the country because of you. Thank you.

And to Analiece and all the students joining us, thank you for your leadership.

Never underestimate your power—to help, to hope, and to heal. You're shining a light into the darkness—helping so many find their way through.

Know your courage has not gone unnoticed. I'm here because of you. Because when I heard about the good work all of you are doing, I had to come out and meet you. Because what you're doing here is what's going to heal communities. And it's so important to me and my husband, President Biden.

He is investing more in young people's mental health than any other president in history. And Indiana has been a great partner. You'll hear more about that work in a minute from Dr. Murthy.

But if there's one thing I want you to remember, it's not the policy details or legislative wins, it's this:

It's ok not to be ok.

You are not alone. You shouldn't have to face the rough edges of this world by yourself. There are people around you—educators and peers—who want to listen, who are here to support you.

Let us share this weight, so you can keep reaching for the endless possibilities that exist within each of you.

Thank you.

Jill Biden, Remarks by the First Lady at a Back to School Mental Health Roundtable in Westfield, Indiana Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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