Patrick Kennedy sparking conversation on mental illness, addiction

By: Rebecca Turco

Email: rturco@abc6.com

PROVIDENCE – Former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy was back at his old stomping grounds in Providence Friday, promoting a new memoir on his substance abuse and recovery.

Kennedy is hoping to use his struggles with addiction and anxiety disorders to raise awareness on mental health and addiction recovery. He discusses this in his memoir, A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction.

The former Rhode Island congressman has bipolar and anxiety disorders. He also suffered publically from substance abuse while in office. He has been sober for more than four years now.

“Everybody is tiptoeing around this issue and speaking about it as if it’s a secret, when in fact it’s really not a secret at all,” he told ABC6 News.

Kennedy hosted a round table in Providence on addiction and mental illness, using his memoir as a starting point for a larger conversation. “If people say, ‘Look at what the Kennedy’s went through, guess what, that’s what we went through.’ And maybe there’s a conversation that’s begun, and that’s what I hope will happen,” he said.

His famous political family, though, namely his mother and brother, Ted, Jr., have distanced themselves from the book, upon reading the portrayal of his parents as alcoholics. “It’s difficult for every family and what’s happening for me is no different than what may happen to other families if they choose to talk about it,” Kennedy remarked. “But there is a price to pay by not talking about these issues.

“There’s nothing mental about mental illness. It’s about brain illness. And I hope that people will understand that these are real medical conditions.”

Kennedy will keep speaking out to get his message across. He started the Now Campaign to bring this conversation for change to the 2016 presidential election.

© WLNE-TV 2015