On October 13, Westminster Counseling Center sponsored the Westminster Town Hall Forum featuring Patrick Kennedy, former Rhode Island Congressman and mental health champion. Speaking to a full house, Kennedy spoke to his own personal struggles with mental health and addiction, how policy work is still needed to ensure that mental health coverage is a right given to everyone, and how system change is still needed to guarantee everyone has access to mental health services.
While serving in Congress, Kennedy authored dozens of bills aimed at increasing the understanding and treatment of neurological and psychiatric disorders. In particular, he was the lead sponsor of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, along with Minnesota Congressman Jim Ramstad, which provided access to mental health treatment for tens of millions of Americans previously denied care. He is co-founder of One Mind for Research, a national coalition seeking new treatments for brain illness and injury, and founder of the Kennedy Forum on Community Mental Health, committed to increasing the availability and quality of care.
His latest book, A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction, weaves together Kennedy's private and professional narratives, echoing Kennedy's philosophy that for him, the personal is political and the political personal. Focusing on the years from his 'coming out' about suffering from bipolar disorder and addiction to the present day, the book examines Kennedy's journey toward recovery and reflects on Americans' propensity to treat mental illnesses as "family secrets."
Beyond his own story, though, Kennedy creates a roadmap for equality in the mental health community, and outlines a bold plan for the future of mental health policy. Written with award-winning healthcare journalist and best-selling author Stephen Fried, A Common Struggle is both a cry for empathy and a call to action.
Click here to hear the broadcast.