Bradley Cooper, star of the Oscar-nominated film “Silver Linings Playbook,” joined legislators and mental health professionals to discuss the impact film—pop culture as a whole, can have on mitigating the stigma surrounding mental illness and encouraging an increased dialogue about mental health challenges.
“I think that’s the real key to this illness—that it's something we can all relate to. It’s hard to confront yourself, it’s hard to confront actions that occur that we may not want to deal with. But if we have a dialogue about it, then we can understand it and make change for ourselves,” Bradley Cooper said, emphasizing the need for a national conversation that does not place individuals with mental illness into an “us vs. them” situation.
Several speakers spoke of the growing number of veterans who are returning from war with significant mental illnesses who are not receiving the care that they need and deserve. Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) challenged audience members to place themselves in the shoes of returning veterans.
“Who amongst us would trade places with one of our retuning veterans from Iraq or Afghanistan and be content with…people referring to your illness as an ‘invisible wound of war?’ What an insult to our nation’s heroes that the signature wound of this war is referred to as invisible.”
Pentagon findings demonstrate for these "invisible" wounds can tragically manifest into very tangible casualties. The 349 young men and women took their own lives in 2012, the highest total since the Pentagon started keeping track in 2001. The Associated Press reported that the number of active-military members who committed suicides exceeded the 295 combat deaths in Afghanistan in 2011.
Barbara Van Dahlen Ph. D., president and founder of Give an Hour—organization of almost 7,000 mental health professionals that provide free services to U.S. troops, veterans, and their families, told Campus Progress that she noticed in her work that overall, young people tend to be more accepting of other people grappling with mental health issues, yet the reluctance to seek help for oneself remains.
“We act as if mental health happens to people out there: the homeless person on the street, the veteran who has PTSD, the character Pat who has bipolar [disorder]," said Van Dahlen, "We all have mental health. We all function on a continuum.”
See video of the event below.