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WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Monday called for a more robust national discussion on mental illness, saying the time had come to draw the issue "out of the shadows."

Speaking at the opening session of a White House conference on mental health, the president said his goal was to let people affected by these issues know they should not suffer in silence.

"Struggling with a mental illness or caring for someone who does can be isolating," Obama said. "It begins to feel as if, not only are you alone, but that you shouldn't burden others with the challenge."

The conference is part of Obama's response to last year's shooting massacre at a Connecticut elementary school. While the president emphasized that most people with mental health problems are not violent, he said untreated mental illness can lead to larger tragedies.

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