A call to action on mental illness

"Fifty-eight years ago, my uncle, John F. Kennedy, challenged the American people to "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." Over the course of my life, I have asked myself this question repeatedly, but never has his challenge been more poignant than today.

Our society is steeped in political conflict and social tension. It is impossible to ignore the emotional anguish that breaks the bonds of human connection and cuts deep divides between people from all walks of life. Skyrocketing rates of suicides and overdoses are ending the lives of our brothers and sisters far too early, leaving traumatized families behind to pick up the pieces and face a new normal.

Mental illnesses and addiction are diseases of the brain that can foster hopelessness and despair. On top of this, people often have to fight social stigma and discrimination. The good news is that recovery from mental illnesses and addiction is possible.

For this reason and more, I support the expansion of Haymarket Center's lifesaving, nationally known evidence-based services to DuPage County. The simple truth is there are far more people afflicted with a substance use disorder than treatment facilities have room to care for. Until we address this shortage, our nation's mental health crisis will continue to worsen.

Across the country, I hear similar concerns arise when residents are grappling with whether to allow an addiction treatment center to open in their town. I urge the good people of Itasca to find common ground and walk the walk for those with mental health and addiction challenges. If this crisis hasn't yet affected your family, chances are, it will. This is your call to action. How will you answer?

Former U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy

Founder of The Kennedy Forum and Co-Chair of "Mental Health for US"

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