“She opened the door for her peers to also come out and not feel shamed by this illness and she is a real hero in my family,” Kennedy said.
After losing his 22-year-old cousin to an apparent overdose last week, Patrick J. Kennedy is speaking out and hopes the nation is listening.
According to People, Kennedy, a former Rhode Island Congressman and son of Ted Kennedy, appeared on NBC Nightly News the evening following Saoirse Kennedy Hill’s death. He spoke about how Saoirse had been open about her struggles with mental health in the past.
“She opened the door for her peers to also come out and not feel shamed by this illness and she is a real hero in my family,” Kennedy said. “She broke the silence. And 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.”
“This affects every single family in America,” he added. “It’s way past time that we deal with this in a way that we would deal with any other public health crisis.”
Kennedy also took to Twitter to speak about his cousin’s legacy and her courage to share her struggles. He shared a link to an essay about life after a suicide attempt, which she had written at age 19.
“Saoirse’s sincere account of her depression is a powerful reminder of how so many people suffer alone and feel isolated,” Kennedy tweeted. “I am proud Saoirse was able to be open and tell her story. I encourage everyone to read her words.”
“Feel what she felt. Do whatever you can from your position in life to stop the isolation, the stigma, and the devastating lack of acknowledgment that often leads to tragedy,” he added in another tweet. “Families across the nation, including ours, are suffering. We must come out of the shadows.”
The Family Statement
Others in the Kennedy family have also spoken about the loss of Saoirse.
“Our hearts are shattered by the loss of our beloved Saoirse,” her family said in a statement. “Her life was filled with hope, promise, and love. She cared deeply about friends and family, especially her mother Courtney, her father Paul, her stepmother Stephanie, and her grandmother Ethel.”
Saoirse was found unresponsive at Ethel’s home Thursday, August 1, a source tells People, and was later pronounced dead. Ethel, 91, also commented on the loss of her granddaughter.
“The world is a little less beautiful today,” she said. “She lit up our lives with her love, her peals of laughter and her generous spirit. Saoirse was passionately moved by the causes of human rights and women’s empowerment and found great joy in volunteer work, working alongside indigenous communities to build schools in Mexico. We will love her and miss her forever.”