A Conversation With Patrick and Amy Kennedy
Last night in Eisenhower Auditorium, Patrick and Amy Kennedy talked about their advocacy for those with mental illness, brain diseases, and addictions as part of the Penn State Student Programming Association’s Lecture Series. The event was also sponsored by Penn State’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and the University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA).
Patrick Kennedy opened up about his own struggles being a Congressman, and the constant battle of being in and out of rehabilitation. He explained that it wasn’t easy for him, neither is it easy for anyone else that struggles with mental illnesses and addictions.
Kennedy grew up in a home where both of his parents abused alcohol. He began to sugar coat what his problem really was, “It wasn’t until I got a D.W.I (Driving While Intoxicated) that I had to really come to full terms with what I was dealing with.” In terms of addressing his real problems Kennedy said he had to, “give up the fight that this is something that I can manage, I could never really surrender the fight. I would say ‘I got this!’ When I had to come out about it, it was a relief that I didn’t have to fight this anymore.”
Kennedy talks about what major issues he discussed in his book, “In my book I wrote about the silence that surrounds these issues…the common struggle is that all of them had a certain silence and it affects the family. I’m in a 12 step recovery program today.”
“I went to a 12 step program before I met Patrick, so I was already familiar with what it was like. They have 12 step programs for friends and families of those in recovery, too,” Amy Kennedy added.
Amy Kennedy is an alumna of Penn State University, and became a teacher. She explains, “I feel like my time here at Penn State prepared me for what I encountered.”
Amy Kennedy strives to change the way that students with difficulties are able to learn. Kennedy said that, “I realized somethings were missing in my own classroom, and that was help for students who were struggling in my class.”
The Kennedy Forum unites the community of mental health, whether it’s a mental illness, addiction, or a brain disease. Amy Kennedy is currently serving as the education director for The Kennedy Forum, which she “supports Patrick, and found five pillars to improve healthcare in the United States.” This allows her to facilitate policy change in terms of education and mental health.
When asked what advice can he give to those reluctant to seek treatment, Kennedy said that everyone needs to maximize whatever potential they already have. Being fearful of getting treatment makes them more sick, and it eventually makes it more difficult for them to recover in the end.
Both Kennedys emphasized that no matter a person’s geography, everyone should be entitled to the same kind of healthcare. This is an important opportunity to educate people because we’re talking about this now, it’s important to end discrimination against mental health illnesses.