Pam Baer
Pam Baer
Feb 11 · 3 min read

An Evening on Mental Health Advocacy with Patrick J. Kennedy

Larry Baer, Patrick J. Kennedy & Pam Baer at An Evening on Mental Health — Photo by David Medal

“No one is immune from addiction; it afflicts people of all ages, races, classes, and professions.” — Patrick J. Kennedy

My husband, Larry, and I recently had the honor of hosting an intimate evening of conversation with Patrick J. Kennedy. Patrick has been an admirable advocate for mental health for many years. His vulnerability in sharing his own experiences around this cause gave a depth of validity that deeply resonated with us.

In Patrick book, The Common Struggle, he openly writes about his journey with addiction and mental illness and his quest for better legislation. “I wanted to aggressively tie my personal story to my ongoing legislative fight for mental health parity — an effort to outlaw the rampant discrimination in medical insurance coverage for mental illness and addiction treatment.”

Our family is one of millions that has experienced tragedy, loss and grief due to mental illness. I was eager to listen, learn, discuss and explore the timely need for progress and was grateful Patrick was able to lead the discussion.

Mental Illness is a disease that is not seen. This needs to change. We all have individual power to speak up for others, to seek help when needed and to work to ensure proper resources are available for treatment for all. Progress in these areas is vital to the future of our society. Through education, access, and care we CAN minimize the pain that those with mental illness, and the people who love them, endure.

Learn, Advocate, & Act:

Patrick’s foundation, The Kennedy Forum, seeks to transform the health care system by uniting mental health advocates, business leaders, and government agencies around a common set of principles. The Forum aims to achieve health equity by advancing evidence-based practices, policies, and programming for the treatment of mental health and addiction.

One Mind is, a mental health non-profit that brings together the best minds in brain science and advocacy to accelerate brain research, and to create a world where all individuals facing mental health challenges can build healthy, productive lives.

Last year I helped to institute a program to Transform Mental Health at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. Restricted funds now go directly to an amazing Social Medicine Program to treat the most vulnerable in our community. The program is unique in that it takes a multidisciplinary approach to help San Francisco’s homeless by combining the care of fields such as social work, physicians and the Department of Public Health in order to treat the whole person. The fund also supports the growth of an Addiction Care Team (ACT) that connects the traditionally siloed medical care, addiction treatment, and community support to help address a patient’s substance use disorder.

This intimate dinner and candid conversation about mental health was inspiring. Everyone knows someone who has suffered from this affliction. It is time to open the lines of communication and make a plan to help our community come up with solutions. Whether it be through technology, strategy, corporate initiatives, social media campaigns, or simply starting the conversation with friends….we all play a part. Keep talking. Keep engaging. Let’s combine our efforts to remove the stigma behind mental illness to benefit ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities.

Pam Baer is a philanthropist committed to improving the well being of the vulnerable. In addition to various community boards, Pam sits on the Advisory Board of Nest and is also on the Founder’s Circle for the nonprofit Every Mother Counts, which funds community-based programs dedicated to maternal health and childcare, and is a lifetime director of the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation. She lives in San Francisco with her husband, Larry Baer, with whom she shares four wonderful children.