The tragedy of Robin Williams’ suicide recently brought the realities of mental illness and substance abuse into the forefront of our nation’s discourse. The day following the beloved actor’s suicide, former congressman Patrick Kennedy, who has battled mental illness and drug abuse during his own life, convened a forum at Hope House, a substance abuse treatment center in Boston.
Boston College School of Social Work Chair of Health and Mental Health Marylou Sudders moderated the panel, which also included Democratic Attorney General candidate Warren Tolman. According to the Springfield, Massachusetts paper The Republican, discussion centered on reducing the stigma attached to mental illness and substance abuse, and the imperative to provide proper treatment and government funding to address these all-too-prevalent issues. Unfortunately, the resources to do so don’t currently exist, said Kennedy, who has long advocated for parity laws requiring insurers to provide equal coverage to those suffering from both mental and physical illness alike.
A diverse audience gathered at Hope House for the panel: public officials, professionals in the fields of mental health and addiction, as well as people struggling with addiction and their family members.
“It was an honor to be a part of this critical conversation on the real need to provide better services for those who are living with mental illness and substance abuse,” said Sudders. “It is essential to listen and to proactively respond to the needs of individuals with these illnesses, their loved ones, behavioral health providers, public officials and others as we build both the wider awareness and more comprehensive services that have a positive and lasting impact.”
A full-time faculty member at BC since 2012, Sudders’ distinguished public record includes serving as Massachusetts’ Commissioner of Mental Health and New Hampshire’s Deputy Director, as well as Acting Director of the Division of Mental Health and Developmental Services. She is also the Independent Reviewer for a U.S. Department of Justice Settlement Agreement to improve services for adults with serious mental illness and substance abuse conditions in North Carolina.
This coming February, the BC School of Social Work will address mental illness, addiction and parity laws, as we host the second in a series of annual symposiums on the potential roles and challenges for social workers in the wake of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 2014’s program featured gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker, who focused on issues related to integrating physical and behavioral health.
This article is intended to offer updates on events that touch the Boston College School of Social Work community. It is not meant to endorse any political party or candidate in any way.