Patrick J. Kennedy said action must be taken to end the “stigma and isolation” surrounding the issue of mental health following the death of his cousin Saoirse from an alleged drug overdose.
Saoirse Kennedy-Hill, the 22-year-old granddaughter of Robert F. Kennedy and Ethel Kennedy, was found at the Kennedy family’ Hyannis Port compound on August 1 and later pronounced dead at a local hospital.
Saoirse, who wrote publicly about her battle with depression, reportedly died of a suspected overdose.
Former congressman Patrick J. Kennedy, 52, the son of Ted Kennedy, is a mental health and addiction advocate. Patrick, who represented a Rhode Island district in Congress for eight terms, left office in 2011 to focus on his own drug addiction and bipolar disorder.
He called his cousin a “hero” for speaking openly about her struggle with depression and mental illness in an article for her school paper in 2016, The Daily Mail reports.
Saoirse Kennedy Hill’s death is putting a spotlight on America’s mental health crisis, after writing about her own struggles years ago.— NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (@NBCNightlyNews) August 2, 2019
“This is a public health threat,” her cousin and former Congressman Patrick Kennedy tells @TVKateSnow.
More tonight on @NBCNightlyNews. pic.twitter.com/m9OWZTGtiw
“She's a real hero in my family, she broke the silence, 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,” said Kennedy, speaking on NBC’s Nightly News with Lester Holt.
“This affects every single family in America, it's way past time that we deal with this in a way that we would deal with any other public health crisis.”
Saoirse’s sincere account of her depression is a powerful reminder of how so many people suffer alone and feel isolated. I am proud Saoirse was able to be open and tell her story. I encourage everyone to read her words. https://t.co/1rv7hbHbb7— Patrick J. Kennedy (@PJK4brainhealth) August 2, 2019
Kennedy shared his cousin’s article in a tweet, saying: “Saoirse’s sincere account of her depression is a powerful reminder of how so many people suffer alone and feel isolated. I am proud Saoirse was able to be open and tell her story. I encourage everyone to read her words.
He added: “Feel what she felt. Do whatever you can from your position in life to stop the isolation, the stigma, and the devastating lack of acknowledgement that often leads to tragedy. Families across the nation, including ours, are suffering. We must come out of the shadows.”