Every so often, when a politician opens up about his or her family life, we are reminded that mental illness and substance abuse don't discriminate. The scourges are arguably pervasive in all levels of American society, from the most downtrodden to one of America's most elite and well-known families.

One member of such an elite family, Patrick Kennedy, published a tell-all Monday about his family's struggles with alcoholism and mental illness. The former eight-term Democratic congressman from Rhode Island wrote about his family's hopeless intervention to get their father, the late former senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), to sober up. Patrick Kennedy also shared his own struggles with alcoholism and bipolar disorder in a new level of detail.

The Boston Globe's Christopher Rowland and Matt Viser previewed the "raw and emotional" book:

He writes about abusing alcohol, drinking in private, and developing a dependency that was so well known that in the mid-1990s, he agreed to become chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — on the condition that he would not drink during his tenure. Instead, he started abusing prescription narcotic painkillers.
He describes a drunken sailing trip in 2000 that turned out to be an embarrassment, and he says he vomited in an Air Force One bathroom on the way to Ireland after too many rum and cokes.

At least one member of Kennedy's family — his brother, Ted Kennedy Jr. — disputed the claims as "a narrative that is misleading and hurtful."

But Patrick Kennedy isn't the only politician to risk family turmoil or public scrutiny while airing family business. Just like the rest of us, politicians have a choice about whether to address the heavy issues in their past. Unlike most of us, politicians must also consider whether in doing so, they should bring their family secrets into the public eye. 

Kennedy is the latest politician to decide for a public airing of their family's darker moments. Here are four more of them:

Bill Clinton

In Clinton's 2005 memoir, "My Life," the former president shares how his half-brother, Roger, struggled with addiction and dabbled in drug-dealing. (Clinton had previously disclosed standing up to his alcoholic stepfather, who allegedly beat his mother.) All of Roger's problems came to head while Clinton was governor of Arkansas. Here's an excerpt:

When our family gathered for holiday meals, [Roger] invariably came late, seemed on edge, and got up a time or two during dinner to make phone calls. The warning signs were all there. I was just too preoccupied to see them.
When Roger was finally arrested, it was big news in Arkansas. I made a brief statement to the press, saying that loved my brother but expected the law to take its course, and asking for prayers and privacy for my family. Then I told my brother and Mother the truth about how long I'd known. Mother was in shock, and I'm not sure the reality registered on her. Roger was angry, though he got over it later when he came to terms with his addiction. We all went to counseling. I learned that Roger's cocaine habit, about four grams a day, was so bad it might have killed him if he hadn't had the constitution of an ox, and that his addiction was rooted, in part, in the scars of his childhood and perhaps a genetic predisposition to addiction he shared with his father.

Harry Reid

The laconic Nevada Democrat and Senate minority leader famously grew up in a hardscrabble gold mining town in the Nevada desert. He shared his father's struggle with alcoholism, which culminated in the older Reid's eventual suicide. In his 2008 memoir, "The Good Fight,"  the younger Reid wrote:

Every now and then [my father] will be too drunk to go to work. And sometimes Mom and Pop fight with each other, physically, in front of us children. My father can be mean to my mother. After Don and Dale are off at high school, Larry and I sit, wide-eyed, listening to what goes on on the other side of the closed door.
I am not confessional by nature, so some of these things are surpassing hard for me to say. I loved my parents very much. They gave life everything they had. But no child should be raised the way I was raised.

Carly Fiorina

The former Hewlett-Packard CEO said in September's second Republican presidential debate that she lost a step-daughter to addiction. Fiorina opened her second book, 2015's "Rising to The Challenge" by recounting the time she found out the terrible news.

The news wasn't completely unexpected. Lori had been battling addictions for years. She had been in and out of rehab three times. As anyone who has loved someone with an addiction knows, you can force someone into rehab, but you can't make her well. Only the addict can do that. Lori couldn't — or wouldn't — take that first step of admitting she was powerless over addiction. And ultimately her body just gave out.

Karl Rove

The top aide to George W. Bush had a troubled family life, to say the least. He shared its secrets in his 2010 memoir, "Courage and Consequence," including how his father walked out on him while Rove was in college, how he found out he was adopted and how his mother committed suicide. Rove later reconciled with his father.

I also think [my father] wept in those later years because he wished he could have saved her. Twelve years after she deserted the family, when I was thirty years old, she committed suicide. Her third, and by now very unhappy marriage, was in the process of ending...
While on routine patrol, the Washoe County Sheriff's Department found my mother, Reba Wood Rove, slumped over in her small pickup truck. It was September 11, 1981. She had driven into the desert north of Reno, found a secluded but visible place to park, run a piece of hose from the tailpipe through the cracked-open rear window of her pickup, methodically taped the area around the point at which the hose entered the vehicle, got in the truck, and killed herself by carbon monoxide poisoning.
Like her mother before her in 1974, my mother had dealt with life's punishing blows by attempting suicide. But unlike my grandmother, Mom succeeded. I was stunned when I got the news but at some deep level I had always known  she was capable of this. My mother had struggled, even in placid waters, to keep a grip on life.