By: ARABA OKYIRE
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Patrick Kennedy, on Tuesday called on Congress to come together in the fight against mental health illnesses in the country since they can affect anyone regardless of political party affiliation.
Kennedy, the son of the late Ted Kennedy and stalwart of the Democratic Party, was speaking at the Recovery Caucus at the Democratic Convention in Charlotte. The event was organized by Mecklenburg’s Promise Wellness Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. Kennedy, himself a victim of mental health, stressed the need for voters to re-elect President Obama to ensure adequate attention to the health care his dad passionately supported before his death. Congress passed the American Affordable Care Act about two
years ago amidst controversy and protests from the GOP.
“Vote for the right administration that will pass the right policies that will not ostracize or stigmatize mental health victims but make sure they receive the comprehensive treatment needed with dignity and respect,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy touched on the rise in the number of post-traumatic stress disorders among veterans and said high suicide continues to claim the lives of more American soldiers after they return from duty than when in service. PTSD are the hidden wounds of war. Kennedy said that veterans with lost limbs, arms and legs receive treatment, and “we need to put a face and voice on mental illness and give it the appropriate attention it requires.”
“Our young men die from the ‘invisible wounds’ from war because they do not have the appropriate health coverage they deserve after putting their lives on line for their country,” Kennedy said.
Reacting to the speech, Sandy Burgess, a recovering addict from Chartlotte, NC’s Mecklenburg’s Promise, said it is inspiring to have someone like Kennedy put a face and voice on mental health without shame by using his personal story to advance proper care for the illness thus establishing a bond with mental health victims.
“It feels good to know that we are not alone in this fight and some high profile members of our society are on our side,” Burgess said.
Sharon Gallusky, a social worker at the Mecklenburg’s Promise Center, applauded Kennedy for recognizing the power in recovery from mental illness of any form and standing up for what is right.
“This is a civil rights issue that calls for strong advocacy, a hero like Kennedy who
understands the pain of lack of treatment to wade through the mud with mental
health victims until the right changes are made,” Gallusky said.
Kennedy closed his speech by telling the caucus members he would not be enjoying fatherhood today had he not had the opportunity for high quality mental health treatment.