Barack Obama
Obama standing with his arms folded and smiling
44th President of the United States
In office January 20, 2009 – January 20, 2017
Vice President Joe Biden
Preceded by George W. Bush
Succeeded by Donald Trump
United States Senator from Illinois
In office January 3, 2005 – November 16, 2008
Preceded by Peter Fitzgerald
Succeeded by Roland Burris
Member of the Illinois Senate from the 13th district
In office January 8, 1997 – November 4, 2004
Preceded by Alice Palmer
Succeeded by Kwame Raoul
Personal details
Born Barack Hussein Obama II(1961-08-04) August 4, 1961 (age 55)Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Michelle Robinson (m. 1992)
  • Malia
  • Sasha
Relatives See Family of Barack Obama
Awards Nobel Peace Prize (2009)Profile in Courage Award (2017)

Mental Health

Dear Mr Obama,

My name is Beth Skidmore and I am 14 years old and come from England. I understand that you have a busy job however I would thoroughly appreciate it if you had the time to read this letter and possible reply. I am writing you this letter to explain to you an issue to which I think should be addressed. This is issue is mental health and issues that are related to it. And I have a few points that I would like to raise and suggest a few ways in which improvement could be made.
Firstly, I would like to address to you the issues of suicide. Did you know that in 2012, 5,981 people killed themselves? That is a very alarming rate. People seem to be plenty eager to talk about suicide as long as it’s in hushed voices and behind closed doors, and I want to open these doors. When people get to the point of wanting to kill themselves, their perception of life has collapsed and they need to know that they are not alone. Of course, you will always feel alone if you have been told that nobody feels the same way. When they’re living in a hurricane, the fact that you have control over your life is a very satisfying feeling, the feeling that they have been craving for so long.
Can suicide really be a choice if it’s the only choice available? We ask ourselves how can it be the only choice, how could it even be a rational choice? And hopefully we wonder and ask ourselves how we can help those who feel this way. When we encounter the suicide of someone else we always try to rationalise it. I hear it all the time and I think that is because we are uncomfortable with feeling helpless and hate the feeling of having a lack of understanding. We actually have many entry points for potentially bettering and understanding suicide. One way we can help is to stop saying that people commit suicide. People commit rape and murder. However nobody has committed suicide since it was decriminalized, this country had suicide decriminalized because it was a mental health concern, not a criminal one. Did you know that 90% of people who die from suicide have a recognizable and treatable mental illness at the time of their death? We know that with medication and therapies these treatments actually do work and that suicide can be prevented.

The second issue I would like to raise is self harm. Self harm is when you hurt yourself as a way of dealing with very difficult feelings, old memories, overwhelming situations and experiences and just not knowing what to do. The UK has the highest rate of self harm out of all the countries in Europe. The majority of people who self harm are aged between 11 and 25. It is estimated that roughly 1 in 12 young people self harm, that is at least two in a normal size classroom at my school. This is a massive issue that should not be ignored! There are ways to prevent self-harm among young people. Anti-bullying strategies and whole-school approaches designed to improve the general mental health and well-being of young people appear to have a positive effect, though there is no specific evidence as yet on their impact on self-harm. Self-harm among young people is a serious public health challenge. There is a need for much better data about prevalence. There is also a need for better awareness and understanding of self-harm and its underlying causes both among young people themselves and those who come into contact with them. Stronger and clearer evidence about what might prevent self-harm and about effective responses to self-harm among young people is also needed. And we also need to teach my generation and future generations that self harm is serious and not just a joke or an ‘emo’ thing to do.
Lastly, the point I would like to address is mental health. Did you know that 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year? This is a very upsetting figure. Granted we do have charities, clinics and doctors’ who help to get treatment to those who are in need. However there is a massive problem with the system.
One of my best friends suffers from anxiety, has self harmed and is suicidal. She went to the doctors about this before she got diagnosed and they referred her to the CAMHS work in a couple of months. She was seen by someone who wasn't a mental health expert however who was on the team who basically said you haven’t done anything in the past 48 hours so were not putting you on the at risk list however we can give you help but you don’t need it. I understand where they are coming from with this but they would only seem to really listen to you when it’s near to being too late. She and another one of my friends that has been referred there have told me that the environment at CAMHS is very patronizing and only seemed to want to help you if it was very severe. My friend told me that after being told that she basically needed to stop kidding herself, she instantly wanted to hurt herself and thought that she wasn't good enough. She desperately needed help and they basically told her that she wasn't going to get it. I think that this system needs to be changed.
I believe that we can all be a part of this change whether we have a mental illness or not. We can do this by taking charge of our own mental health. When we go in for our annual physical health check up we also make a point of doing an annual mental health check up as well. At the individual and the societal levels we can challenge our old ideas. We need to change the way we think and that is what changes the world for the better. I need you to be a leader in this conversation, whether we feel ready to have it or not, something has to be done to improve the lives of many.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and maybe we can see a change for the better in people’s lives in the future And hopefully you can forward this message on all over the world and we can tackle mental illness together.
Yours sincerely,

Beth Skidmore (aged 14)

Ask for support