Patrick Kennedy, former Rhode Island representative and son of the late Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), is speaking out about the need for better access to mental health services, after his cousin, 22-year-old Saoirse Kennedy Hill, died from an overdose at the family’s compound near Cape Cod this summer.
Kennedy appeared on The Dr. Oz Show on Monday (Oct. 28), according to People. There, he called for a comprehensive plan to promote mental health nationally. Part of that, he said, means encouraging doctors to talk tot heir patients about mental health, conducting a “checkup from the neck up,” Kennedy said.
“When you go to your physician’s office and they take a family history of whether you’ve had stroke or cancer in the family, they ought to take a family history of whether you have alcoholism, or addiction, or mental illness in your family,” Kennedy said. “Because the chances are, you’re going to be at high risk yourself if any other family members also suffer from one of those illnesses.”
Kennedy has spoken out about his own struggled with mental illness and alcoholism. He praised Kennedy Hill for speaking openly about her depression, including in an essay that she wrote for her school newspaper when she was 18.
“We Are All Either Struggling Or Know Someone Who Is”
In the essay, Kennedy Hill wrote, “My depression took root in the beginning of my middle school years and will be with me for the rest of my life. Although I was mostly a happy child, I suffered bouts of deep sadness that felt like a heavy boulder on my chest.”
Kennedy Hill even revealed that she had attempted suicide after a sexual assault. She ended by calling on people to prioritize mental health care.
“We are all either struggling or know someone who is battling an illness; let’s come together to make our community more inclusive and comfortable,” she said.
This week, Kennedy praised his cousin’s letter, but said that it also showed how prevalent depression is among teens.
“She was speaking to her friends in high school. We’re seeing a giant leap in the number of suicide attempts and rates of depression and anxiety amongst kids and amongst college-age, young people,” he said.
Kennedy Hill died of a suspected opioid overdose, and Kennedy pointed out that the underlying causes of addiction need to be addressed, even as big pharmaceutical companies are being held responsible.
Addressing The Mental Health Crisis
He said, “So this is not a crisis that’s going to go away simply after Purdue Pharma stopped selling oxycodone. We have an underlying disease of addiction and we have an underlying mental health crisis in this country that we need to address and it’s not as simple as cutting off the supply of Pharma, it has to be more comprehensive than that.”