Kennedy Forum Energizes Chicago

Last week, the 4th Annual Kennedy Forum Meeting: Bending Towards Justice, a Summit for Mental Health Equity was held at the Hilton in Downtown Chicago. MADO Healthcare leadership attended the day-long event and were amongst distinguished guests who had the privilege of hearing a diverse selection of speakers share personal stories, experiences and a common call to action. Meghan O’Brien, MADO Healthcare Admissions Coordinator, was amongst those in attendance. “What struck me the most at this year’s meeting, was the theme of compassion and service each presenter touched upon.”

Speakers from all walks of life, like actor and musician Common, actor and comedian Tom Arnold, New York First Lady Chirlane McCraine and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, all talked about issues of mental health, mental health treatment and care and the current state of the US criminal justice system. People with lived experience and those with firsthand experience of our justice system were also amongst the day’s speakers. Charles Anderson, member of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition and the Chicago CRED participants shared the trauma of their incarceration and not having their mental health needs met while jailed. It was moving and inspiring to hear their stories and learn that they are all now holding jobs and one gentleman hopes to attend law school to pursue a career as a public defender.

The highlight of the day was, perhaps, Political strategist and CNN Senior Correspondent, David Axelrod talking with 28-time Olympic medalist, Michael Phelps. The swimmer candidly shared his experience with anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and drug use, saying mental illness, “has a stigma around it and that’s something we still deal with every day. I think people actually finally understand it is real. People are talking about it and I think this is the only way that it can change.” He told the crowd that his speaking out and helping others is a greater accomplishment than any of his Olympic medals.

Former Congressman and Kennedy Forum founder, Patrick J. Kennedy and MADO Healthcare President and CEO, Peter J. O’Brien, Sr. opened and closed the day’s events with their speeches. All MADO Healthcare staff who attended left the event feeling informed and empowered to continue partnerships with community mental health care providers and to attend to our clients with the care and respect deserved. As the day came to a close, Meghan reflected, “With compassion we can reduce recidivism and truly work on a recovery orientated system addressing the whole person.”