Two famous citizens of New England known for their compassionate politics
will present lectures at APA's 2007 annual meeting in San Diego: Rep. Patrick
Kennedy (D-R.I.) and Kitty Dukakis, wife of former Gov. and presidential
candidate Michael Dukakis. Both have had firsthand encounters with mental
illness and made major contributions to the effort to decrease stigma by
speaking out about their experiences.
Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.)
Courtesy of Patrick Kennedy
Kennedy has long worked for passage of a variety of bills that would help
people with mental illness, including legislation requiring that treatment of
mental illness be covered at parity with other types of medical illness. He
and Rep. Jim Ramstad (R.-Minn.) are now holding "field hearings"
on mental health parity throughout the United States. The first hearing was
held last month in Providence, R.I. Passage of parity legislation has
languished for years under Republican control of Congress.
Last year Kennedy made headlines when he had a late-night car accident in
Washington, D.C., after taking a sleep medication. In the ensuing media
frenzy, he confronted his addiction to painkillers and announced he was
entering treatment. In a written statement to APA following the incident,
Kennedy said that during his 15 years in public life, he has felt a
responsibility to "speak honestly and openly about my challenges with
addiction and depression."
"I've been fighting this chronic disease since I was a young man and
have aggressively and periodically sought treatment so that I can live a full
and productive life," Kennedy said. "I struggle every day with
this disease, as do millions of Americans. I've dedicated my public service to
raising awareness about the chronic disease of addiction and have fought to
increase access to care and recovery supports for the too many Americans
forced to struggle on their own" (Psychiatric News, June 2,
Kennedy will present his lecture, "The Road to Equity: Marching
Toward a Just Treatment of Mental Illness and Addiction in America," on
Monday, May 21, at 9 a.m. in the San Diego Convention Center. His lecture is
part of the National Institute on Drug Abuse session track (see
Courtesy of Penguin Group (USA)
Dukakis, in the mold of Betty Ford, has openly discussed her struggle with
depression and alcohol addiction for many years. In fact, APA presented her
with its Patient Advocacy Award in 1989. She published a book about her
experiences with mental illness in 1990, Now You Know.
In the years since her husband made an unsuccessful bid for the presidency,
she has quietly continued to do good works and speak out on mental health
issues. But now as she approaches her 70th birthday, she has returned to
center-stage America with publication of her new book, Shock: The Healing
Power of Electroconvulsive Therapy. In a country where ECT is still
viewed as a primitive, dangerous, and outdated treatment, her willingness to
speak out shows great courage once again.
"I have had eight sets of ECT since 2001," she told
Newsweek an interview posted at<www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14754161/site/newsweek/>."
It is not an exaggeration to say that electroconvulsive therapy has
opened a new reality for me.... As important, ECT has gotten me off
antidepressants. I withdrew slowly, with help from my doctors. Since I have
been off, I know the full range of my feelings. I get into the car now and put
on music, the classical station. I sometimes cry because it conjures up
feelings of my dad, who died on March 29, 2003, and was a conductor of the
Duakakis will present her lecture, "The Healing Power of
Electroconvulsive Therapy," on Monday, May 21, at 2 p.m. in the San
Diego Convention Center. ▪