The Kennedy Forum Illinois is working to end the stigma against mental health and substance use disorders. We are bringing people together to tackle and solve the most pressing challenges in mental health and addiction.
Mental illness and stigma affects all of us. One of the most heartbreaking conversations I had with my late son P.J., diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, was when he told me he’d rather die an alcoholic than a mental patient. The stigma against individuals with mental health and addiction challenges is alive. It is killing people and we need to fight back.
Research shows that the best way to fight stigma is contact. When individuals suffering in silence, families, co-workers and community members have meaningful interactions with people thriving in recovery, it changes perspective. Honest conversations among colleagues and friends can create a culture of understanding, breaking down barriers to care and support. Discussions across stakeholders can help identify pathways to solutions and create new partnerships to drive progress.
We need to talk about mental health – not just to each other, but with each other. Conversation is a critical part of the solution.
Toward this end, The Kennedy Forum Illinois is participating in the Chicago Community Trust’s On the Table project, an initiative to engage tens of thousands of people in mealtime conversations with a purpose. Last May, more than 11,000 people participated in the On the Table conversations – generating new ideas, new partnerships and new solutions. The On the Table initiative is a valuable opportunity for us to gather in safe spaces with families, colleagues, friends and community members to talk about issues of importance and identify opportunities to make a positive difference. At The Kennedy Forum, we believe this is a perfect platform to support and encourage more dialogue – and more solutions – on issues related to mental health.
In honor of the Trust’s Centennial anniversary this May, The Kennedy Forum has set a goal of hosting 100 conversations about mental health and addiction during this year’s On the Table. We invite you to join us in reaching this goal by being a host of one or more conversations on May 12th.
Peter O’Brien, Chair, Kennedy Forum Illinois