Patrick J. Kennedy of the infamous Kennedy bloodline has spoken publicly about mental health in his life, his family’s life, and the life of millions of Americans. Many times he has courageously stepped forward and said “My name is Patrick and I’m an alcoholic and an addict.” In Kennedy’s childhood, there wasn’t discussion about mental health, Med City News reports. “We didn’t talk about anything that was important as it relates to brain health,” he explained. Both his parents suffered from mental illnesses- his father with PTSD and his mother with a dual diagnosis of depression and alcoholism. Kennedy developed an addiction to alcohol and OxyContin. Through his experiences with his family and his personal experience with addiction, Kennedy realized that mental health stigma is hugely damaging to people. “That’s what these illnesses do to people,” Kennedy expressed, “They isolate them, they disconnect them. The silence is our biggest challenge.” Speaking openly and honestly about mental health issues is pertinent to ending stigma and encouraging recovery.
Mental health stigma causes discrimination against people who are in need of help. For years, insurance companies, doctors, and even representatives of government systems discriminated against those with mental health issues. Stigmatization causes pervasive stereotypes which result in people being judged for their moral character, which has been skewed by harmful shame. Weighing moral character should have nothing to do with treating a clinical issue. Kennedy drafted the Mental Health Parity Act which eventually passed under the Obama administration. Among many other points, the main one was calling on the government to end mental health stigma. The act requires insurance companies and treatment providers to regard mental health in the same way it does physical health- no denying coverage, no super high premiums, and no discrimination.
Helping The Cause: What You Can Do
- Become informed about mental health, what constitutes a mental health disorder, and what it is like to live with one
- Read up on the Mental Health Parity Act and the CARA Act to know your rights in treatment, in the workplace, and with the law regarding your mental health disorder
- Advocate for the rights of others when you witness discrimination, stereotype, or stigma working against them
- Take a look at your own perceptions of mental health disorders and challenge your own beliefs
Together, we can end mental health stigma. Bringing together family and recovery, LEAD Recovery Center programs promote total healing and life change. Leadership, adventure therapy, and clinical rehabilitation helps our clients become autonomous leaders in recovery. For more information on our transitional programs, call us today at 1-800-380-0012.