As a society, we tend to speak about mental and physical health care as though our brain is not part of our body. We discuss our physical ailments, but we hide our depression. We mask our anxieties. We pretend mood disorders are not real. One Mind for Research co-founder and former US Congressman Patrick Kennedy has called for giving mental health issues the same prevention efforts, early intervention and treatment that are allocated to diabetes, asthma and leukemia. Kennedy joins Speak Up for Kids in sharing his personal experience with mental illness and addiction and his call for the nation to treat mental illness just like every other physical illness. As Kennedy has stated before “just like the civil rights fight, it took people showing up and willing to be counted before things changed” so we ask you to show up by tuning into this compelling event.
Patrick Joseph Kennedy II was born on July 14, 1967, in Brighton, Mass., to Virginia Joan Kennedy and Senator Edward “Ted” Moore (D-Mass.) Kennedy. He is the youngest of three siblings and is named after his paternal great-grandfather. He is a 1986 graduate of Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., and received his Bachelor of Science degree from Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island in 1991. Kennedy became the youngest member of his family to hold elected office when, in 1988, he won election to the Rhode Island House of Representatives at age 21. After serving two terms in the House serving District 9 in Providence, Kennedy went on to serve 16 years in the U.S. House of Representatives representing Rhode Island’s First District.
During his time in Washington, D.C., Kennedy carved out a name for himself by authoring and co-sponsoring dozens of bills to increase understanding and treatment of neurological and psychiatric disorders, including the National Neurotechnology Initiative Act, the Genomics and Personalized Medicine Act, the COMBAT PTSD Act, and more. Kennedy has openly discussed his struggles with depression and bipolar disorder for much of his life and in 2008, he brought his passion for mental health research and advocacy into the spotlight when he co-authored and was the lead sponsor of the Mental Health Parity & Addiction Equity Act. The legislation, which was the largest that he and his father worked on together, provides tens of millions of Americans who were previously denied care with access to mental health treatment.
Shortly following his father’s death in 2010, he made the difficult decision to not seek re-election and thus ended the Kennedy legacy of having a presence in federal office. However, Kennedy had his eyes on a larger, more personal goal. It was in that year that he co-founded The Next Frontier Campaign: One Mind for Research dedicated to dramatic enhancements in funding and collaboration in research across all brain disorders.
In addition to his work with One Mind for Research, he strives to live out President Kennedy’s call for Americans to give back to their country and to do so, he is an active board member of Best Buddies and sits on the board of trustees at Bradley Hospital in East Providence, Rhode Island, where he hopes to further his role as an advocate of mental health research and services. Seeking to inspire and educate younger generations about mental health, Kennedy speaks as a visiting professor to both Rutgers and Brown University and is on the national advisory committee for Active Minds, a student advocacy group focused on changing the conversation about mental health on college campuses.