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Michelle Obama Says She Is Suffering From Depression

Former First Lady Michelle Obama

THURSDAY, Aug. 6, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Former First Lady Michelle Obama said Wednesday that she is suffering from "low-grade depression."

"I'm waking up in the middle of the night because I'm worrying about something or there's a heaviness," Obama said during her "The Michelle Obama Podcast." "I try to make sure I get a workout in, although there have been periods throughout this quarantine, where I just have felt too low."

It's a familiar feeling for many Americans. A U.S. Census Bureau survey found that 1 in 3 Americans are feeling the same, with symptoms of depression or anxiety. That is more than three times the rate seen in a survey done in 2019, CNN reported.

Obama also talked about race relations since the death of George Floyd. It's "exhausting" to be "waking up to yet another story of a Black man or a Black person somehow being dehumanized, or hurt, or killed, or falsely accused of something," she said.

Obama added that she was frustrated with people who won't wear masks.

"There's almost like there's a limit to our sacrifice and it was about a month, and then we just got tired of the virus. That's been disheartening to see so many people who have grown tired of staying at home because the virus didn't impact them," she said.

"We've been through tough times in this nation" but, "we are in a unique moment in history … We are living through something that no one in our lifetimes has lived through," Obama noted.

One mental health expert appreciated Obama's candor.

"I applaud Michelle Obama for her leadership and courage in sharing the personal story of her depression," said Dr. Victor Fornari, a psychiatrist at Zucker Hillside Hospital in New York City. "Mrs. Obama is a powerful champion for positive social change. During these unprecedented times, heightened anxiety and depressed mood have been quite prevalent. The COVID-19 pandemic has been the source of enormous stress for everyone."

This, coupled with the racial injustice and the tragic death of George Floyd, "has unleashed an enormous outpouring of frustration and demand for racial equality and demand for change," Fornari said.

"Through the brave self-disclosures of prominent individuals like Mrs. Obama, it is hoped that others will seek care and not feel embarrassed or ashamed of their emotional struggles," he added. "This self-disclosure will help to reduce the stigma often associated with mental illness."

More information

Visit the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health for more on depression.

SOURCES: Victor Fornari, MD, psychiatrist, Zucker Hillside Hospital, New York City; CNN
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