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Long-time politician and mental health advocate, Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy became the eighth recipient of the prestigious McLean Award on October 23, 2015. This annual award is presented to individuals who have furthered the public’s understanding of psychiatric illness and mental health. Mr. Kennedy has made this cause a lifelong mission.
During his 16 years representing Rhode Island’s First Congressional District, Mr. Kennedy was the co- author and lead sponsor for the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. This groundbreaking legislation guaranteed equal access to mental health and addictions services. After leaving Congress, Mr. Kennedy founded One Mind for Research, a leader in scientific collaboration and brain research, and the Kennedy Forum on Community Mental Health, with a mission to drive change and unite the mental health community.
Congressman Kennedy recently released A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction, a memoir which weaves his own personal struggles together with his political efforts to improve the future of mental health care. Mr. Kennedy is a powerful advocate for those whose voices are less audible.
Before graciously accepting the McLean Award, he spoke poignantly about his own challenges and expressed his respect and gratitude for the work being done at McLean. “I wrote Common Struggle, not to describe the illnesses...but to talk about the other common struggle, which is that we don’t talk about these illnesses. That is the defining aspect that unites all of us. That we tiptoe around these issues, we whisper about these issues...I want to thank you all for doing all that you can to help break the silence,” said Kennedy.