July 22, 2016 •
On July 21, Akron, Ohio, welcomed Patrick J. Kennedy as the keynote speaker at Akron Roundtable. Kennedy is a former U.S. congressman and a powerful voice in recognizing mental illness and addiction as a serious concern. Kennedy spent his 16-year […]
On July 21, Akron, Ohio, welcomed Patrick J. Kennedy as the keynote speaker at Akron Roundtable. Kennedy is a former U.S. congressman and a powerful voice in recognizing mental illness and addiction as a serious concern.
Kennedy spent his 16-year eventful career in Congress fighting to stop the discrimination against mental illness and change societal opinions about those diseases. The fight for change eventually led to Kennedy being the lead sponsor for the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008.
“The youngest congressman from the smallest state was the lead sponsor of that act,” said Kennedy. “The other congressman didn’t want their names associated with mental illness.”
Kennedy wrote an inspiring book about his struggle with addiction and how he overcame it. He made it a point to explain that the book broke the “Kennedy silence” and destroyed his relationship with his brother, but being open about his addiction was crucial to his recovery.
Kennedy also spoke about his frustration with the lack of philanthropy for mental illness. “Philanthropists are fine donating a wing at the local hospital around cancer,” said Kennedy. “But when it comes to mental illness, a disease that often affects their family more than anything else, they aren’t ready to put their money behind it.”
The point that mental illness is overlooked and pushed aside was very powerful coming from a former addict. As an audience member sitting in a packed ballroom at the John S. Knight Center, I could feel his passion toward ending the medical discrimination of mental illness. I saw the anger he feels toward nonprofits that could care less about mental illness research. In the end, I could feel the respect he has for someone with a mental illness and his mission to help them recover.
Akron Roundtable has been bringing the world to Akron, Ohio, for forty years and has hosted countless prominent speakers that educate, inspire, and excite the diverse audiences.
Photos by Elysabethe Anderson.