Six hundred people were on hand to hear former Rhode Island Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy discuss the issue of mental health at a forum moderated by best-selling author and Today show correspondent Jenna Bush Hager, held May 17 at Kingswood-Oxford School in West Hartford. The event marking Mental Health Awareness Month, was hosted by Tara’s Closet of Jewish Family Services’ of Greater Hartford (JFS).
In an open dialogue with Hager, Kennedy discussed his own experience with mental health. During his 16-year congressional career, he fought a national battle to end medical and societal discrimination against these illnesses, highlighted by his lead sponsorship of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. Kennedy and Hager also addressed current political issues regarding medical treatment for mental health and illness, as well as the opioid epidemic. Jenna Polidoro, a senior at Suffield Academy, also shared details about her battle against depression.
During a Q&A forum, Bush Hager, Kennedy, and Polidoro accompanied by Dr. Evan Fox, Assistant Medical Director of the Institute of Living at Hartford Hospital, offered insight on mental illness and its perception.
“We must change the perception of mental illness and create transparency, and acceptance,” said Kennedy. “It is crucial to openly discuss and normalize the conversation and make everyone feel like its their issue.”
CAP: (l to r): Jill Stoner, Tara’s Closet co-chair; Pia Rosenberg Toro, JFS first vice president; Anne Danaher, JFS CEO; Sandy Zieky, JFS campaign co-chair; Leigh Farber, event co-chair; Jenna Bush Hager; Patrick J. Kennedy; Barbara Roth, Tara’s Closet founder; event co-chairs, Veronica Dicke, Charna Kaufman, Nancy Pearlman. Photo credit: J. Fiereck Photography