Tipper Gore spoke first, referring to her own depression, which required medication and family counseling after the Gores' son, Albert, then 6, was struck by a car in Baltimore in 1989 and nearly died. As a child, Tipper Gore had also seen her mother suffer from deep depression.
"Like many of you, I've turned my private experiences into public action on behalf of others," said Tipper Gore, her eyes appearing moist.
As an adviser to Clinton on the issue, she helped convene a White House summit last year on mental health concerns.
Tipper Gore concluded her remarks with unusually personal praise for her husband: "He has provided support for me and my family at a time that was critical for us and at a time of particular sacrifice in his life in terms of his own aspirations."
After his son's injuries, Gore, then a senator, decided to pass up the presidential race in 1992, but became President Clinton's vice presidential running mate.
It's part of a personal story that the campaign hopes to make better known.
Lehane, the campaign spokesman, said Tipper Gore's visibility may well be stepped up under this new strategy.
"She's been our most effective campaigner and advocate, who always has perfect pitch," Lehane said later.
At the end of his remarks, the Gores sat side by side, perched on the edge of matching swivel chairs, nodding as they listened empathetically to the tales of parents of mentally disabled children and health care providers.
"Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of," Gore told the crowd of roughly 100 people. "Stigma, discrimination and ignorance shame us all."
At several points, the Gores clasped each other's hands as they responded to audience members. The couple promised parents who had been told they would need to renounce custody of their children in order to receive state-subsidized mental health care for them that no parents should be forced to make that choice again.
Some heath insurers contended yesterday that costs would rise more sharply than predicted if they were required to cover mental health treatment, making the cost of insurance prohibitive for more people.
"Certainly, these are well-intended mandates," said Richard Coorsh, a spokesman for the Health Insurance Association of America, a major trade group.
"Nevertheless, mandates raise the costs of coverage, and therefore raise the number of uninsured Americans."