Former Senator Patrick Kennedy is using his position in one of the most powerful political families in America to raise awareness about addiction and mental illness, and is urging the 2016 presidential candidates to do the same.
“I keep hearing that the 2016 presidential campaign is about big ideas and authenticity,” Kennedy wrote in a column for USA Today. “Here’s a big idea that every person suffering from a mental illness or an addiction, and every American affected by those illnesses (so, everybody), knows is authentic.”
Kennedy called on each candidate to prepare a plan for tackling this health crisis.
“Every candidate for president in next year’s election should have a detailed and realistic platform for how he or she would dramatically improve diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illness and addiction,” he wrote.
Kennedy has been vocal about his own family's struggle with mental illness and addiction, as well as the toll that these diseases take on the American public.
“One third of all hospitalizations in America involve mental illness and/or addiction, and many people who have these diagnosable medical conditions do not get the gold standard of care — either because they can’t afford it or because they are too stigmatized that the illnesses they have are chronic to stay on it,” Kennedy wrote.
The son of the late senator Ted Kennedy said that his father was not able to speak out about these issues, or even discuss them openly in the family. However, Patrick Kennedy said that his motivation is personal.
“Doing this is more than a political decision,” he wrote. “It also means doing the personal work to challenge discrimination against these diseases, and the people who have them, at a very private level. I can attest to the challenges of living with these illnesses and how they are made worse by our fear of talking about them openly. Even after you get up the courage to admit you have one of these illnesses, you reach a whole new level of silence, laced with brain disease denial. And that silence is so damn loud.”