On Sunday, January 10th Maria Shriver interviewed her cousin, Former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy, about his new book “A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction.” Kennedy discussed details of his personal and political battles with mental illness and addiction and our country’s mental health care history.
Kennedy discussed his primary mission, which has been fighting to get the brain recognized as part of the body in order to get it covered properly by health insurance companies and demanding that mental health be an included part of health care.
Shriver asked how we get families more open to talk about the subject, and Kennedy replied that it is all about the health care system. “There needs to be liability to get the system to change,” he said.
Kennedy wants us all, as individuals, and the political and health system at large, to get past silence. “Because the issue, fundamentally, is that in the AIDS crisis, silence = death. And there are people dying of silent suicides and overdoses” when there are proven medical interventions. It is silence that is at the heart of the problem:
An important part of the conversation was of course the issue of stigma. Kennedy explained that he called his book “A Common Struggle,” not because every family has someone with a diagnosed mental illness (which many actually do), but because the consistent scenario is that none of us want to discuss it.
Shriver noted that “the personal drives the political” and urged everyone to use their personal vote for politicians doing the right thing. This is especially important in a big election year. “It does make a difference who is in Washington, even though we all like to complain about Washington,” she said.
She then added, “All of us have a facade, an interior truth, and I think a big takeaway from the book for me, is how to reconcile the two.” In the end, it all “goes back to the idea that everybody can be an Architect of Change.”
Click here to watch the full video of Shriver and Kennedy’s Architects of Change LIVE Conversation.