Thursday, May 23, 2019

Patrick Kennedy: On Addiction and Stigma

“Addiction was unimpressed that I came from a famous family.” – Former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy 

Mental illness does not discriminate is a sentiment shared among experts in the field of medicine. Each person, if certain conditions are met, can struggle with mood disorders or behavioral health issues. Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (46.6 million) experiences mental illness in a given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

To complicate matters even further, more than half of individuals who live with a substance use disorder also have a co-occurring mental illness. The fact of the matter is that addiction and other mental health disorders affect tens of millions of Americans. What’s more, despite a modern understanding of the mechanisms of psychological morbidity, stigma and shame remain pervasive.

As long as there have been mental diseases, there has been the stigma that goes with them; sometimes, it comes from strangers and other times, family. Moreover, the American health industry is still guilty of discriminating against people living with mental health conditions. Even though legislative protections exist, insurance providers continue to do everything they can to deny coverage.

Parity is a word of vital importance: the state or condition of being equal, especially regarding status or pay. In health care, the word means providing the same level of care and coverage to everyone regardless of the ailment.

Not too long ago, ante-Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) and Affordable Care Act (ACA), insurers were allowed to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. Insurance companies could also set arbitrary coverage restrictions on those with mental illness.

Despite the enactment of the MHPAEA and ACA, the fight for parity continues, as well as the effort to eliminate stigma.

 

Mental Disorder and Addiction: Legitimate Health-care Issues


addiction
Last December, we wrote about former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy and his “Don’t Deny Me” campaign. The champion of equal coverage and lead sponsor of the MHPAEA continues his effort to ensure every American receives the coverage they deserve.

Patrick Kennedy, some of you will remember, is in recovery. He has a keen understanding of what it’s like to live in silence, to be treated differently by those who you love. Now sober for eight years, he continues to share his story with others and encourage people to seek mental health services.

Over the weekend, Kennedy gave a commencement speech to an audience of 15,000 at the University of Rhode Island, Dispatch reports. He used the opportunity, as one might expect, to talk about his experience with addiction, mental illness, and stigma. Mr. Kennedy also encouraged 3,434 undergraduates to seek help if they experience symptoms of mental disorder.

During his speech, Patrick shared how his father, the late U.S. Sen. Edward “Ted” Kennedy, lacked compassion for his struggles, according to the article. He said that “when it came to my addictions,” his father’s response was: “Patrick just needs a swift kick in the ass.”

“I spent many years lost in a fog of shame,” Kennedy said. 

Like many people with substance use issues, Kennedy hid his illness as best he could for as long as possible. Stigma will cause people to go to extraordinary lengths to conceal their problems, such behaviors often come at severe costs. When Patrick first sought recovery, he went out of his way to ensure no one knew he was seeking help. Again, such actions are a testament to the shame that looms over mental health conditions.

Seeking Help for Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders


Acknowledging that you have a problem that requires outside assistance isn’t simple, and it takes a tremendous amount of courage. At Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat, we understand how challenging it is to ask for help and to look past stigma.

Recovery is possible for all determined to make it their reality. At HVRC, we can help you break the cycle of addiction, address any co-occurring disorders, and give you the tools to realize long-term sobriety. Please contact us today to speak with our admissions staff and to receive a chemical dependency treatment evaluation.

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