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Talking up a personal battle, Kennedy to lecture at Texas State

Talking up a personal battle, Kennedy to lecture at Texas State

| On 04, Oct 2013

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Launched in 2004, the Common Experience initiative seeks to get students and the university community thinking on a common theme; the 2013-14 theme is “Minds Matter: Exploring Mental Health and Illness.”

What: LBJ Distinguished Lecture

Who: Former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 8

Where: Evans Auditorium, Texas State University

Cost: Free

Live the ‘Experience’

The book for this year’s Common Experience series is “Behind Happy Faces,” described by its publisher as “the most comprehensive book about mental health issues for high school and college students.” Patrick Kennedy has helped promote his cousin’s book on mental illness. Order both books from Amazon here.

by BRAD ROLLINS

Patrick Joseph Kennedy II, whose mental illness and drug addiction tarnished and cut short his tenure in Congress and then inspired him to embark on an advocacy campaign, will deliver the LBJ Distinguished Lecture on Tuesday, Oct. 8 as part of the Common Experience at Texas State University.

Son of the late U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy and nephew of the former president, Kennedy says he has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and has been candid in recent years about his alcohol and drug abuse, including addiction to prescription painkillers like OxyContin. In 2006, he checked in to the Mayo Clinic for treatment after driving into a barricade near the U.S. Capitol in the early morning hours of May 24.

While in office, he used his perch as a congressman — and as a Kennedy — to successfully co-sponsor legislation in 2008 that requires health insurers to cover more of the cost of treating mental illness. He has called for “a national conversation on mental health that will allow us to finally remove the stigma surrounding mental illness and continue tackling a number of pressing mental health challenges.”

“It’s chemistry, not character,” Kennedy has said of mental illness.

After declining to run for a ninth term in 2010 — marking the first time in more than six decades that a member of his family did not hold federal office — Kennedy launched a nonprofit research and public awareness organization, One Mind For Research, which he has called “a moonshot to the mind.” He tours the country drawing attention to causes ranging from the high rate of suicide among recent U.S. war veterans to the epidemic of mentally ill people in jail or prison, instead of treatment. He has also emerged as a leading opponent of marijuana legalization.

Kennedy’s visit to Texas State coincides with the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s Community Mental Health Act that laid groundwork for mental health policies in the United States today. Four years later, Texas State alumnus President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Mental Health Amendments of 1967 that furthered mental health services in the United States.

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A version of this story was originally published in the San Marcos Mercury

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