Melania Trump Highlights Nation’s Opioid, Mental Health Crisis in Impassioned Speech at RNC

August 26, 2020 Updated: August 26, 2020

First Lady Melania Trump,  the keynote speaker on the second night of the 2020 Republican National Convention, shone a spotlight on the nation’s opioid crisis in an impassioned speech from the White House Tuesday, as she wrapped up the second night of the convention.

In an address from the newly renovated White House Rose Garden, the first lady acknowledged the lives lost to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus as she highlighted the urgency of paying attention to America’s drug crisis amid the pandemic.

“This disease is one that affects everybody. It pays no attention to race, age, or socioeconomic status. Addiction has touched every part of our society in some way,” she said in her nearly 30-minute speech.

Tacking the opioid crisis in the United States has been a key project from the first lady throughout the Trump presidency. She launched an anti-cyber-bullying and anti-drug-abuse initiative in 2017, named “Be Best,” with three main pillars—well-being, online safety, and opioid abuse.

“Now more than ever we have programs and medicine to combat it. We just need to talk about it openly.”

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President Donald Trump along with Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence applaud First Lady Melania Trump as she arrives to address the Republican Convention during its second day from the Rose Garden of the White House, in Washington, on Aug. 25, 2020. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

“To the media industry and as a country, I ask we all commit to helping in the fight against drug addiction by talking about it even more, especially as we battle the COVID pandemic,” the first lady said, noting the impact the pandemic has had on the mental health of Americans.

“We need to remember that suicides are on the rise as people who are struggling with loneliness and addiction feel they have nowhere to turn.”

Among 5,412 Americans surveyed at the end of June, 41 percent reported at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition, according to an Aug. 14 Morbidity and Mortality report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The number is higher among younger adults between the ages of 18 and 24, with 75 percent of respondents reporting experiencing at least one condition.

National foundation the Well Being Trust meanwhile has projected that approximately 75,000 people are at risk of drug or alcohol death or suicide directly due to stress caused by the ongoing pandemic.

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First Lady Melania Trump looks on after addressing the Republican Convention during its second day from the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, on Aug. 25, 2020. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

In the United States, about 75 percent of all drug overdoses are opioid-related, including prescription pills, heroin, and fentanyl—a synthetic opioid originally developed as a painkiller and anesthetic. It’s 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin and as little as two milligrams can be a lethal dose.

The first lady in her speech urged parents, teachers and caregivers to pay attention to signs of addiction.

“Lawmakers, pass legislation that allows those who ask for help to do so safely and without fear and provide resources for organizations that help people impacted by addiction,” she said. “When the stigma is removed, people will no longer be ashamed to ask for help and lives will be saved.”

“If you are struggling with addiction, there is no shame in your illness. Please seek help. You are worth it.”

Moments earlier, New Mexico police officer Ryan Holets thanked President Donald Trump for his leadership in battling the drug crisis.

New Mexico police officer Ryan Holets
In this screenshot from the RNC’s livestream of the 2020 Republican National Convention, New Mexico police officer Ryan Holets addresses the virtual convention on Aug. 25, 2020. (Courtesy of the Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Republican National Committee via Getty Images)

“I hold a special place in my heart for those facing opioid addiction. That’s why I’m enormously grateful to the President for his leadership in fighting this deadly enemy. Through his efforts, we are turning the tide on the crisis of addiction,” Holets said.

“These are significant improvements that have a meaningful impact. We are fortunate, America, to have a President who cares deeply for the downtrodden, who works tirelessly to find solutions. A President who doesn’t just talk about problems—but stops and helps.”

The first lady vowed that if her husband is re-elected for a second term in November, she will continue to build upon her “Be Best” initiative and work with individual states to pass legislation to take care of the nation’s “most vulnerable.”

“I want to ensure children are being protected and communities have sources needed to combat drug addiction and child neglect or abuse,” she said. “Helping children is not a political goal, it is our moral imperative.”

Bowen Xiao contributed to this report.