Congressman Joe Kennedy III and NBC Sports Boston reporter Trenni Kusnierek want to change the dialogue on mental health.

Their friendship started when Kennedy stumbled on an article about Kusnierek in The Boston Globe, which detailed her own personal struggles with anxiety and depression. Inspired by the story, Kennedy wrote to Kusnierek and the two decided to pool their resources to fight the stigma that mental illness has carried in the U.S. for decades.

“20 percent of all Americans suffer from some form of mental health issues. The problem is its so widespread, but we don’t talk about it, and there’s still this stigma associated with it,” Kennedy said on Boston Public Radio Tuesday morning. “No one associates a stigma with cancer or the flu. Those illnesses happen, they can be tragic, but we as a society and community rally around our family members when that happens, and we help them through it. That’s not the case with many behavioral health issues and addiction.”

Despite the prevalence of people coping with mental health difficulties, Kusnierek and Kennedy found it incredibly difficult to find people willing to have a conversation about the issue. So, they decided to start the conversation themselves, and they’ve brought in some all-stars to help them out. On Monday, Kusnierek and Kennedy will host a forum at Suffolk University called "A Conversation on Mental Health with the Sports Community," featuring Celtics Coach Brad Stevens, former Bruins player Kevin Stephens and WNBA all-star Chamique Holdsclaw.

“I come from a Polish family that doesn’t talk about feelings, so I think [my depression and anxiety] was a shock to them as well as my sister and brother,” Kusnierek told Boston Public Radio. “I often refer to cancer, [where] you can see someone lose their hair or physically be affected by the treatment they’re going through. … [Mental illness] is something on the inside, so you can’t look at someone and fully understand what they’re going through.”

The two hope that by bringing in some high-profile names and kick-starting a conversation, more people will not just be inclined to speak up about their own personal struggles with mental health, but also shine a light on what they see as Congress’ negligence when it comes to providing access to affordable mental health treatment and counseling.

“The largest psychiatric facilities in our country are the jails in New York, LA and Chicago,” Kennedy said. “We’ve criminalized mental health. What we need to do is make sure that our fellow Americans feel like this is an illness, there isn’t a fault in it, and that it’s okay for them to demand more of their Congress to do something about it, because we can, we’ve just chosen not to.”

The forum will be held at Suffolk University’s Modern Theater from 5:30-7 on Monday, Sept. 17.