The Kennedy family has a long history of falling victim to tragedy, from assassinations to substance abuse and mental health issues. Many Americans are familiar with Ted Kennedy’s alcohol use earlier in his career, which led to a car wreck that took the life of a young woman. His son Patrick, a vocal advocate for recovery and mental health parity, also struggled with substance use for many years.
Recently deceased author Christopher Kennedy Lawford was also in recovery for mental health-related issues. Last week, tragedy struck the family once again when Robert Kennedy’s granddaughter died from a suspected overdose, People reports. Saoirse Kennedy Hill, Patrick Kennedy’s cousin, died at the age of 22.
If the reports are accurate, Saoirse is now among the staggering number of Americans who lose their lives to an overdose. Three years before the young lady’s untimely death, she wrote an essay for her high school newspaper about her battles with depression and suicidal ideation.
“My depression took root in the beginning of my middle school years and will be with me for the rest of my life,” Saoirse wrote. “Although I was mostly a happy child, I suffered bouts of deep sadness that felt like a heavy boulder on my chest.”
At a time like this, who better to speak on the subject than former Rhode Island congressman Patrick Kennedy.
Bringing Depression and Addiction Out of the Shadows
Patrick Kennedy has been fighting to end the stigma of addiction and mental health disorders for years. He has a track record for working on expanding access to treatment and recovery services. His effort to ensure that insurance companies cover mental health services, in the same way they would other diseases, has been instrumental in protecting the rights of millions of Americans.
Following his cousin’s death, Patrick shared some kind words about her with People. He said that “She opened the door for her peers to also come out and not feel shamed by this illness and she is a real hero in my family.”
“She broke the silence. And we mourn her loss but her memory will live on as someone who wasn’t going to keep silent and wasn’t going to be feeling as if she had something shameful, but rather something medical that she sought treatment for.”
Saoirse’s story is not unique; millions of Americans continue to struggle in the shadows with mental illness and substance use disorder. Patrick Kennedy used the opportunity to call for a more significant response in dealing with the epidemic we face.
“This affects every single family in America,” said Kennedy. “It’s way past time that we deal with this in a way that we would deal with any other public health crisis.”
Seeking Help for Addiction and Mental Illness
At Celebrate Hope, our thoughts and prayers go out to the Kennedy family. We understand the deadly nature of mental disease and hope that Hill’s memory will inspire other young people to seek assistance.
Please contact us at your earliest convenience if you are struggling with alcohol or substance use disorder. We offer several programs that can help you learn how to lead a life in recovery.