Patrick Kennedy Talks Depression, Addiction And The Importance Of Advocacy

By David Konow 10/11/16

Kennedy believes the government should spend as much on mental health as it does on physical health.

Patrick Kennedy Talks Depression, Addiction And The Importance Of Advocacy
Photo: via YouTube

As a member of the famed Kennedy family, it’s no surprise that Patrick Kennedy has been involved in politics. The son of Ted and Joan Kennedy, Patrick was a former congressman, serving on the U.S. House of Representatives until 2011.

It’s also no surprise that like many in the Kennedy clan, Patrick has had his struggles with chemical dependency and mental illness. According to his Wikipedia page, he was treated for cocaine addiction when he was a teenager, and he has been addicted to alcohol and OxyContin as well. 

After getting sober in 2011, Kennedy wrote about his past in his 2015 memoir A Common Struggle, detailing his struggles with depression and drugs.

After leaving the House of Representatives, Kennedy has used his campaigning and public speaking skills to shed light on mental illness and addiction. He himself is affected by bipolar disorder, he's said in the past.

The former congressman told The Press of Atlantic City that to help fight both disorders, “We have to flood the system with more money to build it up with more counselors, to build more facilities, get reimbursement for therapies, for treatment in schools, the criminal justice system and the workforce. This thing has got to be a key part of us, as a nation, so that we can be all that we can be.”

Kennedy applauded Bruce Springsteen’s recent decision to talk about his own depression in his memoir Born to Run, that showed the world that mental illness can affect everyone, the famous and everyday people alike.

With the upcoming election, Kennedy also praised Hillary Clinton for putting mental health issues “on par with that of physical health.” He wants the laws to change where health plans cover mental health and drug problems with the same “parity of coverage” as it would treat a physical illness.

Kennedy also pointed out that the government spends less on mental health than it does physical health, and that this should change.

“If it’s good enough for cancer, it should be good enough for mental health and addiction,” Kennedy said. “When someone has diabetes or cancer, there’s chronic treatment, support for family. You get everything you need to stay well and we need that same approach to mental illness and addiction.”

About his family, Kennedy said, “I feel I’m more present in their lives when I take care of my mental health. I can pay more attention to them, which I think is key to their mental health. I can be expressive in my love for them and bring reassurance to them on how important they are to me.”

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.