First wife of the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Joan Kennedy, has denied any involvement with their son Patrick Kennedy’s controversial new book, which details his experience of mental health and addiction within the Kennedy family.
The latest dismissal of Patrick’s book, “A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction,” in which he details intimate stories of his father and mother’s life as well as his own struggles with addiction, adds fuel to the already fiery and public family feud regarding Patrick’s portrayal of the Kennedy clan.
Speaking to the Boston Globe through a friend, Joan Kennedy has denied any previous knowledge of the contents of the book and denied that she participated in its writing in any way.
“I had no knowledge that Patrick was writing a book and did not assist him in the project in any way,’ she is quoted in an email to the Globe by classmate and close friend Margo Nash, a Cape Cod-based lawyer.
“I was not given a copy of the book and have still not seen it or read it,” Nash continues, saying she had met with Joan that morning but was not representing her in a legal capacity, simply as a friend.
A spokesperson for Patrick Kennedy, however, has stated that this is not true and Joan Kennedy was not only interviewed by Patrick in the process of writing the book but was also interviewed by the book’s co-author Stephen Fried, strengthening Patrick’s claim in the Globe Sunday that his mother had been the lone family supporter of his work.
“That goes against what the process was,” spokesperson Jeff Valliere said.
“She was aware and participated and has been very supportive of his efforts as an activist for mental health and addiction.”
When questioned whether Joan Kennedy knew the details contained in the book that Patrick was writing about his father, Valliere says, “I can’t comment on any back-and-forth conversation. The fact she didn’t get an advance copy of the book would lead me to believe she did not know what was in it.”
In “A Common Struggle,” the 48-year-old former congressman from Rhode Island reveals he has bipolar disorder and speaks about his battle with drug addiction and alcoholism.
However, Patrick also claims that in his book he explains his father’s own problems with alcohol, writing that he believes his father suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder following the assassination of his two brothers, President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, as well as sustaining a bad back injury in a plane crash in 1964 from which he never fully recovered.
Patrick writes that he refused to attend his father’s 62nd birthday party in 1992 unless his father put a stop to his drinking. He also recounts how the family once staged an intervention for Ted Kennedy Senior to which his father reacted with anger.
He also claims that his mother would walk around the house in a bathrobe, drunk, and nobody would acknowledge or address the issue.
These claims and intimate stories from the already much-talked about Kennedy family history have caused much consternation among other family members who do not feel it was right to speak publicly of any troubles that the family may have had regarding mental illness and addiction.
Your responses to the @60Minutes segment show that silence around mental health and addiction are truly a common struggle for many of us.— Patrick J. Kennedy (@PJK4brainhealth) October 5, 2015
As reported by IrishCentral on Monday, Patrick’s brother Ted Kennedy Junior has already condemned the book claiming that the experiences outlined are different from his own memories and that their parents' issues were not Patrick’s to share with the world.
“I am proud of my brother Patrick for his tremendous work to make mental health parity part of our national conversation, and I admire him for his candor about his own challenges,” he began.
“However, I am heartbroken that Patrick has chosen to write what is an inaccurate and unfair portrayal of our family. My brother’s recollections of family events and particularly our parents are quite different from my own.”
“Our father was a man with an extraordinary capacity for empathy and intimacy who cherished many lifelong friendships; my dad and I shared a deep, emotional bond. Our mother has been fearless and forthright about her own addiction issues, but I strongly believe that her story is hers and hers alone to tell. Mental illness and addiction are critically important issues that deserve a serious discussion – not a narrative that is misleading and hurtful.”
Patrick Kennedy, a recovering alcoholic who is now five years sober, continues to defend his book as he brings it on tour around the US stating that although he loves his family, it was time to throw open the veils of secrecy in order to break down the stigma surrounding the issues.
“Well, it’s my story. You know, oftentimes you’re expected to keep your parents’ secrets and yet it will bedevil you your whole life because we all grow up to be our parents and everything that happens to us as children we live with for the rest of our lives,” he said in an interview with MSNBC.
“And what makes that worse is keeping that stuff secret. Or thinking that you’re keeping it secret."
The former Congressman believes that it is right for him to no longer keep his family’s secrets because this is an issue that many American families face every day.
“My family does not want to be identified with a mental illness. That should tell you something about the shame and stigma that still surrounds these issues," he stated.
"On the positive side, a number of members of my family have said I love the message that this is about breaking the silence and shame.”
Referencing the comments made by his brother, Patrick said: "All I can do is do the next right thing and pray that my brother will understand that what I’m trying to do here is bigger than both of us, and that’s what my dad was all about.”
"We as a country are ignoring this to our peril. It's not just the prisons and jails that are the ultimate new asylums," he said.
“It's people are walking in this world where they're silently suffering."