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Patrick Kennedy State of the Union on Mental Health

Patrick Kennedy, a former US senator, mental health advocate and author, along his wife Amy Kennedy, are both prominent figures on the Muse Advisory Board and in the forefront of mental health advocacy in America.

Patrick Kennedy sponsored and championed the Mental Health Parity Act, which indicates that mental health should be paid equally to physical health claims by insurers. As part of his advocacy, he has been bringing together working groups to tackle problems in mental health and deployment, which we have been honoured to be a part of.

The conference opened with an address from Amy Kennedy; a champion for the impact of mental health in schools.  She was followed by Dr David Satcher, the previous Surgeon General of the US. He recounted a story of being discriminated in his youth and targeted, alongside Dr Martin Luther King, and set free along side him.

He spoke of a new idea he has coined, Medical Civil Liberties, suggesting that all citizens have equal Medical Civil rights- rights to be recognised regardless of condition, and access to healthcare regardless of condition.

Here is Patrick in his opening address, talking about the stigma of mental health, and the need to break that discrimination:

The Kennedy Forum has created a simple video outlining the problem in mental health and what they feel is needed to close the gap. (Muse is honoured to be featured as one of the solutions suggested by this esteemed group).

Patrick’s vision is for mental health to be a social movement in America like physical health was in the 80s, raising awareness to give all of us the tools to live healthier lives, or like the environmental movement of the 90s, which brought awareness and solutions that make environmental consciousness a defacto part of our society.

Over 23 million Americans deal with substance abuse issues. 9.8 Million American adults suffer from mental illness. It is projected that by 2020 substance and mental health issues will surpass all other illnesses in terms of disability claims.

Simple recommendations today that can help improve both detection of and coping with mental health include solutions from doctors using mood questionnaires in checkups and schools implementing concussion tests. Schools, workplaces and more are beginning to roll out meditation classes to teach various methods of strengthening the brain. Tougher issues like managing mental health in correctional facilities will take longer to implement.

All are on the Kennedy agenda, and the several hundred policy leaders, heads of big insurers, Medicare/Medicaid, schools, Veterans Affairs, and more that were in the room, all agree that it’s time to break the stigma, and make mental health a natural part of total health.

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