Seth Moulton: Nobody should fear talking about mental health challenges in America

Article Image

CNN's Jake Tapper presses 2020 presidential candidate Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) about Sen. Joe Biden's vote to go to war in Iraq back in 2002.

Posted: Jun 3, 2019 11:00 AM
Updated: Jun 3, 2019 11:00 AM

I've had post-traumatic stress.

It's taken me a long time to say that. For years, I didn't tell my friends and family because I didn't want them to see me as broken, or damaged, or through the lens of the stigma associated with mental health challenges. My team didn't know, and given the nature of my job, they know pretty much everything. Even my parents didn't know.

I didn't share it with the public either because, honestly, I was worried about the political consequences. My PTS is under control; I no longer think about the worst moments of the Iraq war every day, the bad dreams no longer wake me up at night, and I don't find myself struggling with the feelings of guilt and aimlessness that plagued me when I first came home from Iraq. But despite all of that, I feared that if I told my story, there would be headlines calling me unstable or unable to lead.

For a long time, the only group I shared my struggles, in-depth, with were the Marines from my platoon. Many of them were struggling -- with PTS, depression, anxiety, and with the decision about whether or not to get help -- so I told them that I'd seen a therapist in the hopes that they would do the same. I was inspired by them because a few, younger than I, had shared their stories with me first.

It has helped all of us to talk. And talking has helped us get whatever help or support we've needed. This was how I first began to fully understand the impact that sharing these stories can have on others.

I also began to understand just how widespread these issues are, for veterans and civilians alike. Most of the veterans I know have struggled with mental health in one way or another. Twenty veterans commit suicide every day, and half of the veterans who struggle with mental health don't seek help, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. The same is true of civilians. More Americans kill themselves each year than die in car accidents, according to the CDC. And more than 50% of American adults who struggle with mental illness don't get the care they need, according to a report by Mental Health America.

Not long after I talked about post-traumatic stress privately with my platoon, I started hosting veterans town halls with Sebastian Junger, the author of books like "War and Tribe," who served as a combat reporter in Afghanistan. The town halls are a place where veterans can share their stories, good or bad, with fellow vets and civilians. As Junger puts it, "No one goes to war and returns home unaffected. It's not fair -- or healthy -- for veterans to be left alone with these burdens." So we gave veterans a place to share.

At each event, I saw fellow veterans explain how their experiences overseas affect their lives back home. Many took on the stigma around mental health and told the stories they least wanted to tell -- about friends they had lost, guilt that remained with them decades after combat, post-traumatic stress, and more. But I also heard the good stories. Those same veterans talked about how they'd been proud to serve our country, how they missed doing so, and how they made the best friends they ever had in war-torn places around the world.

The same goes for my friend Jason Kander's article last October about his own struggles, and for Junger's moving speech about his. Our particular experiences and symptoms are different, but our stories have a lot in common. The main difference is that they were sharing their full stories, and I wasn't.

As I began running for president, I knew it was time for that to change. One of the first things you learn in the Marines is that if you're going to lead, you need to lead by example. On this issue, for years, I hadn't had the courage to do that. But I'm trying to make up for that now.

In this past week, I have held additional veterans town halls, this time with an explicit focus on mental health. I've put forward a set of policies that would address mental health challenges for veterans and civilians alike, by making mental health care as normal and routine as going to the doctor for your yearly physical. And for the first time, I've spoken publicly about my post-traumatic stress and going to therapy.

Despite my fears, there weren't any headlines saying I was crazy or unfit to be commander-in-chief. My team didn't decide, all of a sudden, that I couldn't lead them. My family didn't think I was broken or damaged. In fact, the response has been overwhelmingly accepting and understanding. In truth, I believe going through this struggle has made me stronger. Much to my surprise, it seems like others see that, too.

It was a tremendous relief, and a reminder of how things should be. Nobody should be afraid to talk about mental health challenges or therapy in America, no more than they're afraid to talk about physical illness or going to the gym.

That stigma held me back for a long time. But now that I'm running for president, I hope to help end it.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 253932

Reported Deaths: 5524
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17120175
Hinds16207322
Harrison13353193
Rankin10689211
Jackson10303183
Lee8796141
Madison8232162
Jones6288110
Forrest5949119
Lauderdale5847180
Lowndes5355116
Lafayette494292
Lamar484165
Washington4777123
Bolivar3966108
Oktibbeha392480
Panola368378
Pontotoc362853
Monroe3533105
Warren348498
Union343060
Marshall341665
Neshoba3370152
Pearl River327899
Leflore3002105
Lincoln297085
Sunflower282669
Tate270862
Hancock266559
Alcorn263253
Itawamba262459
Pike262077
Scott246245
Prentiss245052
Yazoo244355
Copiah240849
Tippah240450
Simpson234867
Leake230564
Coahoma230054
Grenada217770
Covington211371
Marion210672
Adams204670
Winston200164
Wayne199630
George199038
Attala193559
Newton191342
Tishomingo184459
Chickasaw183644
Jasper169735
Holmes168567
Clay159033
Stone142320
Tallahatchie140134
Clarke138660
Calhoun135721
Smith120123
Yalobusha116534
Walthall111836
Noxubee110322
Greene109729
Montgomery109434
Carroll104221
Lawrence102417
Perry101631
Amite97725
Webster92224
Tunica86321
Claiborne86125
Jefferson Davis84125
Humphreys82924
Benton81523
Kemper77120
Quitman6888
Franklin66415
Choctaw60313
Wilkinson58325
Jefferson53819
Sharkey42717
Issaquena1596
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 422598

Reported Deaths: 6120
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson62039921
Mobile30225548
Madison27052186
Tuscaloosa20728267
Montgomery18978305
Shelby18504114
Baldwin16251182
Lee12465101
Morgan12233113
Etowah11735168
Calhoun11122200
Marshall10191107
Houston8598148
Cullman8023105
Limestone800274
Elmore7836101
DeKalb768397
Lauderdale754683
St. Clair7535120
Talladega6166108
Walker5897174
Jackson580341
Colbert532073
Blount530483
Autauga518455
Coffee441056
Dale396181
Franklin366248
Chilton336165
Russell330310
Covington327268
Escambia316842
Dallas303196
Chambers282769
Clarke281433
Tallapoosa2616107
Pike248729
Marion245650
Lawrence243647
Winston226635
Bibb215147
Geneva201435
Marengo199029
Pickens196531
Hale175842
Barbour172936
Butler169658
Fayette168226
Cherokee160330
Henry153621
Monroe145217
Randolph139835
Washington137626
Clay126145
Crenshaw118744
Lamar118019
Cleburne117423
Macon114735
Lowndes110335
Wilcox103121
Bullock99028
Perry97419
Conecuh94420
Sumter89026
Greene76023
Coosa60515
Choctaw51224
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Cloudy
45° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 40°
Columbus
Mostly Cloudy
42° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 37°
Oxford
Cloudy
46° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 44°
Starkville
Mostly Cloudy
37° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 37°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather