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Patrick Kennedy on Mental Illness and Treatment

This year’s Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy focused on the question of how to help veterans — centering on the National Guard and reservists — reintegrate within their community when they come home. The Guard and reservists have an especially difficult time, because they are outside the usual military structure of benefits and services (although more recently, some benefits have been extended to them because of the extended fighting in the two wars the U.S. has been engaged in in Afghanistan and Iraq).

The two-day meeting presented views, personal stories and data on three main themes of veterans’ “reintegration” — within the family, the workplace and the community. It also offered the opportunity to learn about dozens of great service programs around the country that are reaching out and trying to help this group of returning soldiers (during a poster session).

Today, I’m going to focus on the beginning of the symposium, because of Rep. Patrick Kennedy’s energetic opening remarks to the group.

10 Comments to
Patrick Kennedy on Mental Illness and Treatment

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  1. Great recap, John. And thanks. How wonderful that
    Rep. Kennedy and the Carters were mature and mission-focused enough to overcome past discord. I can’t express how frustrated I become when I see yet more evidence of this mythical separation between physical and mental health. Last time I looked, my head was still attached to my body. Absolutely, we need a “new mission to the moon.” Heck, maybe we should adopt a color – that way pro athletes, and others, could wear it. And our cause could receive attention and funding.

  2. yeah, its “stigma.”

    Until it is accurately named,yeah, that’s it.

  3. “We need to advance treatment faster than it has advanced in the past 10 years (which is to say, very little at all).”

    It has been posited that little has changed for a much longer time. “Unfortunately, there have been no major breakthroughs in the treatment of schizophrenia in the last 50 years and no major breakthroughs in the treatment of depression in the last 20 years.” Science, The Future of Psychiatric Research: Genomes and Neural Circuits, March 26, 2010.

    The continuing tragedy when it comes to mental health care is that too few in treatment receive that treatment which makes a difference. Instead we find an endless stream of essential concepts rendered shiboleths: System Transformation, Best Practices, Evidence-based Practices, Wrap-around Care, treatment predicated on the Principles of Recovery and the Domains of Wellness.

    One could argue that the most significant changes in our nation’s mental health system in the past two decades have been: 1) The increase in premature mortality as measured in years of potential life lost and 2) The increase in the number of individuals on disability by virtue of mental illnesses.

    Neither statistic says good things about the present or bodes well for the future where so much progress was routinely claimed in the past.

  4. As a Rhode Islander, I am very proud to see Patrick Kennedy do so well on this mission to re-energize policy makers.

    And I love the comparison he makes with the Plessy Vs Ferguson analogy! Separate but equal was the premise of the law when the Supreme Court proffered it. However, we saw exactly how “equal” black citizens were actually treated following the Civil War! And that’s exactly how those with mental health issues are treated today.

    Today, I believe that unequal status in treatment is due to the stigma that still persists with mental health issues. Commercials declaring a man does not have to whisper that he is bipolar anymore are meaningless when mental health care workers and the administrators will still exploit consumers of the mental health industry!

    That’s exactly what I’m dealing with here in RI right now. Because I found out that a program I attended for less than two days was a program for substance abusers, I left. The mental health clinic is accusing me of “possibly” abusing my medication, in order to justify keeping false information on my health record! They have also accused me of lying about the fact that I never got a client handbook and that I didn’t know it was a substance abuse program! And now, this clinic, (state and federally supported with our tax dollars), is refusing to allow me to see my record. This is in direct violation of the HIPPA laws!

    I may just call upon Patrick Kennedy for his help as a result of their behavior. As it is, I’ve already contacted a lawyer. But, why should I have to pay a lawyer under these circumstances? All I’ve asked for is that the health record be corrected when they *know* that my counselor made a mistake in referring me there. She honestly didn’t know it was a dual diagnoses program! (I told her!) But, their refusal to stop spreading lies about me and to correct the medical record is completely unethical! And that behavior continues to spread the stigma about mental health treatment.

    As long as the clinicians and administrators continue to spread the stigma of mental health treatment, how is anything to really ever change? Indeed, it cannot.

    Thanks for sharing Kennedy’s thoughts with us, Doc John. Yes, I do believe I will call upon him to help me deal with this travesty. After all, he is still my representative until January! :>))


  5. Im a Roman Catholic priest living with bipolar disorder but am involved in full ministry giving special attention to mental health issues, especiallly giving workshops on “Mood Spirituality”. Congratualtions on your envaluable work in the field of mental health Mr. Kennedy. The Churches need to do more about the internal stimatization of those with mental disorders.

  6. Mental Health First Aid has come to light in Georgia. We are focusing on equipping people to identify and refer. Mental Health First Aid started in Australia and was adopted by Marland Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene, Missouri Dept. of Mental Health and National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare. We need more prevention and early intervention as we know that the sooner that an individual receives treatment, the better the outcome. I am proud to be a Mental Health Instructor in Georgia. For more information go to

  7. Dear Senator Kennedy,
    I have a family member who I have tried to help
    for the last 10 yrs for domestic,mental and substance abuse.I would really like to get in contact with you so hopefully you can help both of us to deal with this horrible ordeal.This is RI and as you know all too well everyone knows everyone.In this past year she has tried to commit suicide almost every month,ending up in Butler for 1 month then goes to outpatient:within 2 days of being out it starts all over again.I would like to go in detail,but I fear for my safety and hers.Please contact me by email since this is so sensitive and I feel time is running out.
    My sincere thanks

  8. Mary, I hope this helps- My sister crashed five weeks after helping her taper off antipsych meds, while switching her over to natural therapies. I tapered her off way too quickly. I should have done it over a 3 year period, (rather than 3 weeks), as she had been on the meds for 12 years. (If she had never started the meds, and instead been started on natural treatments, I’m sure she would never have needed the meds to begin with). After stabilized on the meds, again, she went to a naturopath, and the natural therapies were then combined with the meds. Along with the new, non-gluten, dairy-free diet, her side-effects from the drugs are gone. She feels better than she ever has before. Hopefully we can taper her off again, but this time over a much longer time frame. For those with metabolic imbalances, these naturopathic methods seem to be the solution. For those who have a mental illness caused by psychological factors, such as a nervous breakdown, psychotherapy, alone, may be all that is needed.

  9. Mary- I would also suggest you have your family member see a naturopath. Private insurance may cover it, and some give free initial consultations. Natural therapies cure the disease, and don’t just cover up the symptoms. And at the proper dosage, they have no side-effects, like the pharmaceuticals do.

  10. There has been so much research going on worldwide since 1979 and indeed genes are being identified. The research doctors are saying “The Brain is the new frontier,” and the progress since 1979 has been remarkable. Genes for schizophrenia, bipolar, depression, parkinsons, als and compulsive disorders are being identified. That Patrick Kennedy would step up to the plate is remarkable because the mentally ill need a champion and if anyone can do it, a Kennedy can. Try to imagine the despair and isolation so many members of humankind have experienced down through the ages. We are right on the verge and it would be so wonderful if someone like Patrick Kennedy could champion this cause.

  11. I am a retired psychiatric & family practice nurse w/ yrs. in mental health/addictions. I am watching you on CNN w/ tears of joy & hope as I listen to your thoughts and plans for “moon shot” for all diseases of the brain. You are on the appropriate path and I will do all I can to assist you. Nameste Marge



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