Former U.S. congressman Patrick J. Kennedy will write a book about his struggles with mental illness and his political and personal battles to ease the stigma for Americans suffering from the disease, Blue Rider Press announced.
The book, “A Common Struggle: A Very Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction,” will be published in late 2015.
Kennedy, the youngest son of Sen. Edward Kennedy, was elected to the Rhode Island legislature in 1988 while a sophomore at Providence College and later served 16 years as Rhode Island’s Democratic representative in Congress.
His troubles with drug addiction, alcoholism and mental illness have a long history. As a teenager, he was treated for cocaine use. Later, he revealed his battle with bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression. In 2006, he crashed his car into a barrier outside the Capitol at around 2 a.m. while high on prescription drugs – a public embarrassment that spurred him to go public with his addiction to prescription drugs. He also checked himself into the Mayo Clinic for treatment.
Kennedy has since worked hard to put a public spotlight on addiction and mental illness and to push for passage of the 2008 Mental Health Parity Act that requires health insurance plans to provide equal coverage for physical and mental illnesses.
“I look forward to sharing my political and personal story in a way that engages everyone involved with the ‘common struggle’ of mental illness and addiction, which affects all of us,” Kennedy said in a statement.
The former representative has long posed the mental illness debate as a civil-rights issue, arguing that the stigma attached to those suffering from mental health crises is akin to the prejudice encountered by African Americans and gays and, in an earlier era of his uncle John F. Kennedy, by Irish Catholics.
Kennedy left Congress in 2010, and in 2011 co-founded an organization for brain research called One Mind. He describes his book as a portrait of mental health care, politics, research and activism.