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Patrick Kennedy, Jenna Bush Hager to Lead Mental Illness Conversation in West Hartford

Patrick J. Kennedy (left) will be the featured speaker and Jenna Bush Hager will be the moderator of a community conversation about mental illness in West Hartford. Courtesy images

Patrick J. Kennedy will be the featured speaker, and Jenna Bush Hager will be the moderator for a community-wide conversation surrounding mental illness on the campus of Kingswood Oxford School in West Hartford.

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To mark 2018 Mental Health Awareness Month, Jewish Family Services (JFS) and Tara’s Closet will present “Embracing Possibility for Mental Health Awareness: A Conversation with the Honorable Patrick J. Kennedy,” with special guest moderator, best-selling author and NBC’s Today contributing correspondent Jenna Bush Hager.

The evening will begins at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 17, on the campus of Kingswood Oxford School, 170 Kingswood Rd. in West Hartford, CT. Reservations are recommended and available online here.

The Honorable Patrick J. Kennedy is a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and the nation’s leading political voice on mental illness, addiction, and other brain diseases. During his 16-year career representing Rhode Island in Congress, 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 – and his brave openness about his own mental health and addiction challenges.

“We are all held hostage by the code of silence, by the stigma and shame that pervades mental health issues,” said Kennedy. “The only way to treat that shame is by talking about it.”

The son of Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy, he decided to leave Congress not long after his father’s death to devote his career to advocacy for brain diseases and to create a new, healthier life and start a family. He has since founded the Kennedy Forum, which leads a national dialogue on transforming the health care system by uniting mental health advocates, business leaders, and government agencies around a common set of principles, including full implementation of the Federal Parity Law, and co-founded One Mind for Research, a global leader in open science collaboration in brain research. Kennedy is also the co-author of “A Common Struggle,” which outlines both his personal story and a bold plan for the future of mental health in America.

“We must change the perception of mental illness and create transparency, and acceptance; that is why I wrote this book,” he added.

“I am excited to be coming back to Hartford for this important annual event organized by Jewish Family Services and Tara’s Closet,” said Hager. I look forward to continuing the conversation of mental health awareness and moderating this discussion. Through his own personal experience, Patrick has been advocating for better mental health awareness and treatment, stressing the importance of ending the stigma associated with mental health. I applaud his efforts and look forward to a productive conversation.”

“Through JFS and Tara’s Closet, we hope to stop the stigma of mental illness and begin to influence a change in perception,” said Barbara Roth, Founder of Tara’s Closet. “Mental illness does not discriminate. It affects people of all ages, race, religion, socioeconomic and demographic profiles. We are thrilled to welcome Patrick J. Kennedy who has been personally affected by mental illness.”

It is crucial to openly discuss and normalize the conversation, Kennedy said. “The answer is making everyone feel like it’s their issue.”

Tickets are available by calling  or online at bit.ly/MentalHealthJFS.  Seating is limited and advance reservation are highly recommended.

This event is sponsored by Tara’s Closet,  a JFS program whose mission is to bring to light the stigma of mental illness

About Jewish Family Services

In partnership with Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford and Jewish Foundation of Greater Hartford, the JFS mission is to enhance and strengthen quality of life through the Jewish tradition of caring and compassion. JFS Counseling, Education and Community Support programs serve the Jewish community AND the community at large. To learn more about Jewish Family Services, visit jfshartford.org

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