A recent gathering in La Quinta, California, brought together treatment professionals, politicians, and advocates for improved mental health care. The purpose of the 2014 Health Matters Conference was to discuss the latest trends in the addiction field, treatment strategies, and prevention tactics.
One participant, former congressional representative, Patrick Kennedy, himself dealt with addiction to prescription medications. Kennedy, son of late Senator Ted Kennedy, co-founded the One Mind for Research coalition, which advocates for the treatment for brain disorders. At the conference, he spoke about the need for relapse prevention and continued monitoring of patients.
Kennedy explained that doctors routinely check patients for physical issues they’ve been struggling with, but that many shy away from asking questions about patients’ mental health. “We can correct this. We can treat this like every other physical illness,” Kennedy said. “This is not just a character flaw … it’s a chemistry issue. But our medical system is not trained for this, and they don’t know how to ask about it.”
Creating Awareness for Mental and Behavioral Health Disorders
Also at the event, discussions were held about the trend of prescription drug abuse among young adults, which experts estimate affects 1 out of 5 college students. John MacPhee, director of the Jed Foundation, which focuses on the mental health of college students, said more young people are getting caught up with this dangerous addiction. Many college students are using prescription pills to manage stress, to help them study better, or to deal with pain.
All present at the Health Matters Conference agreed that the key is to remove the stigma associated with addiction and mental health disorders. In order to encourage people to seek treatment, they need to understand the seriousness of these conditions, and they need to know there is hope for recovery.