A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction Info

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In this New York Times bestseller Patrick J.
Kennedy, the former congressman and youngest child of Senator Ted
Kennedy, details his personal and political battle with mental illness
and addiction, exploring mental health care's history in the country
alongside his and every family's private struggles.

/>On May 5, 2006, the New York Times ran two stories, “Patrick
Kennedy Crashes Car into Capitol Barrier” and then, several hours later,
“Patrick Kennedy Says He'll Seek Help for Addiction.” It was the first
time that the popular Rhode Island congressman had publicly disclosed
his addiction to prescription painkillers, the true extent of his
struggle with bipolar disorder and his plan to immediately seek
treatment. That could have been the end of his career, but instead it
was the beginning.
Since then, Kennedy has become the
nation’s leading advocate for mental health and substance abuse care,
research and policy both in and out of Congress. And ever since passing
the landmark Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act—and after the
death of his father, leaving Congress—he has been changing the dialogue
that surrounds all brain diseases.
A Common
Struggle
weaves together Kennedy's private and professional
narratives, echoing Kennedy's philosophy that for him, the personal is
political and the political personal. Focusing on the years from his
'coming out' about suffering from bipolar disorder and addiction to the
present day, the book examines Kennedy's journey toward recovery and
reflects on Americans' propensity to treat mental illnesses as "family
secrets."
Beyond his own story, though, Kennedy creates a
roadmap for equality in the mental health community, and outlines a bold
plan for the future of mental health policy. Written with award-winning
healthcare journalist and best-selling author Stephen Fried, A
Common Struggle
is both a cry for empathy and a call to
action.


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Reviews for A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction:

3

Oct 15, 2018

Since my son was diagnosed with Bipolar I this past spring, I've been reading a lot of books on the subject. This memoir was an interesting combo of government policy and personal story.

Patrick Kennedy was a representative for Rhode Island in the US House of Representatives in the late 90's and early 2000's. He decided to run as a 20 year-old college student and he realizes now that he made that decision during a manic episode. During his tenure, he pushed for all kinds of legislation for mental Since my son was diagnosed with Bipolar I this past spring, I've been reading a lot of books on the subject. This memoir was an interesting combo of government policy and personal story.

Patrick Kennedy was a representative for Rhode Island in the US House of Representatives in the late 90's and early 2000's. He decided to run as a 20 year-old college student and he realizes now that he made that decision during a manic episode. During his tenure, he pushed for all kinds of legislation for mental health parity (having insurance companies recognize and pay for mental health issues just as they did for any other illness).

What's heartening/depressing about his accounts of how the legislative sausage was made, is that back then it was a true bipartisan concern. Mental illness did not distinguish between political parties, so he was able to work with people from both sides of the aisle. That was heartening. What was depressing is that there doesn't seem to be much of that kind of cooperation anymore.

He lists all sorts of initiatives and advocacy groups that are working with medical professionals, researchers, the pharmaceutical industry, the insurance industry, and all levels of government to improve the life of the mentally ill. There is/was a lot going on. And a long way to go.

I found his personal struggle very interesting. He is the youngest son of Ted Kennedy. His older brother had cancer as a child and had is leg amputated. His sister had lung cancer and died of a heart attack when she was 51. His mother was an alcoholic. His extended family suffered trauma after trauma.

He was diagnosed with Bipolar II while still in high school, but from what I can tell, he never really got the right meds to deal with it. He was also very anxious and had bad asthma. He did a lot of self-medicating and got hooked on Oxycontin after he had back surgery for a benign tumor. Because he was wealthy and connected, he could get drugs anywhere at anytime. He also had a lot of people covering for him, so his depressions could be hidden as well as his manic swings.

He was in and out of rehab, never trusting that his information would be leaked to the press. His father was of the old school that he shouldn't talk about his mental health challenges. I'm amazed he functioned so well for so long.

Because he had a drug addiction problem and a mental health condition, it was difficult for him to get the right treatment. Rehab says no meds at all, but Bipolar Disorder needs to be treated with drugs - an inherent contradiction. Luckily, he had the time and resources to finally turn it around.

I came away from this book, realizing that money and privilege doesn't shelter you from pain and suffering - and can also impede healing if you have a team of enablers. Quite the double-edged sword.

...more
5

Oct 10, 2015

This is an incredibly brave and honest life story by a scion of a political family who not only has represented a stand all his life, both in Congress and afterwards, to get brain disorders treated with the same kind of respect and equitable treatment that body disorders are, but who has vulnerably revealed his own lifetime struggles with bipolar disorder and alcohol addiction.

In the world of politics, where image is everything, truth usually is denied or kept secret. Truth such as Rosemary This is an incredibly brave and honest life story by a scion of a political family who not only has represented a stand all his life, both in Congress and afterwards, to get brain disorders treated with the same kind of respect and equitable treatment that body disorders are, but who has vulnerably revealed his own lifetime struggles with bipolar disorder and alcohol addiction.

In the world of politics, where image is everything, truth usually is denied or kept secret. Truth such as Rosemary Kennedy's being both disabled and having a brain disorder has just been cleanly brought out in the recent book Rosemary, by Kate Clifford Larson. This was unadmitted Kennedy history. Patrick gets into the family dysfunction, which is secrecy, and owns up to every bad thing he has ever done in his life and is very transparent about his own brain disorders, explaining incidents in his life that were caused by his alcohol addiction or his bipolar disorder, how he lied about them, and how in this book he finally reveals all the truth about his struggles.

Patrick is a champion for mental health politically and personally, and for a politician, that is unheard of. His honesty and transparency are not just refreshing, they are transformational. He is a beacon for the cause of talking openly about brain disorders, of removing the stigma they have long held, and of making government a force for equitable treatment of them.

I truly love this man and would highly recommend this book to anybody. This book is extraordinary and ground-breaking. ...more
5

Oct 04, 2015

I I'm so glad I caught the segment on 60 Minutes where Patrick Kennedy was interviewed about his personal and family hisotry with alcohol and drug addiction and mental illness. What caught my attention and drew me to read the book was what he hasd to say about the stigma associated with these diseases and the code of silence associated with them in families. Too true!!!

The book also covers the background and history of the Kennedy's attempts, since JFK was in office and up to when Ted and I I'm so glad I caught the segment on 60 Minutes where Patrick Kennedy was interviewed about his personal and family hisotry with alcohol and drug addiction and mental illness. What caught my attention and drew me to read the book was what he hasd to say about the stigma associated with these diseases and the code of silence associated with them in families. Too true!!!

The book also covers the background and history of the Kennedy's attempts, since JFK was in office and up to when Ted and Patrick Kennedy were attempting to get laws passed regarding recognition of addiction and mental illnesses that are recognized as diseases of the brain to receive equal and appropriate treatment and coverage by insurance as would any other disease of the body. I found this info very interesting and informative. The stigma and unwillingness of not only politicians, but the general public as well, to see addiction and/or mental illnesses as simply nothing more than moral weakness/failure and people with issues who need to "get it together" and the huge disparity of treatment options and equality of insurance coverage as compated to diseases of the body is appalling!

With that in mind though, Patrick Kennedy (and all the other kennedy's who have gone through rehab multiple times) should be very thankful he was born into a rick family for one AND a member of the House of Rrepresentatives and Congress where their medical and rehab coverage by insurance is NOT on teh same playing field as ours is. That is something that needs to be regulated much more fairly too. If "we" have to abide by some law or regulation, so should they. It was interesting to learn how many politicians have required treatment and time in rehab for alcohol and substance addiction or suffered from mental illness and recived treatment. The same stigma and code of silence manifests there too, I guess.

I highly recommend reading A Common Struggle. ...more
5

Oct 16, 2015

Wow...great story of a families struggle. I work in mental health and have found a renewed passion for advocacy and social change in this system. Brutal honesty is needed to reduce stigma.

I would highly recommend this book to learn more about the common struggles brain disease and addiction causes families and individuals. As a long time social worker, I have a renewed sense of passion to achieve parity. I love all of the recommendations at the end of book. Now I know where to focus.
5

Oct 13, 2015

Amazing insight into a disease I thought I understood.

My sister has struggled with the same disease as Patrick Kennedy. His brutal honesty and openness has given me new hope for her. She has struggled with Bipolar disease as well as addiction for over 30 years. I ordered her a copy of this book the second I finished mine. Thank you,Patrick Kennedy,for your bravery and honesty. This book will help not only those who have the disease,but the friends and family who love them.


I
5

Oct 12, 2015

One book I never expected to read is A Common Struggle by Patrick J. Kennedy, youngest son of the late Sen. Edward Ted Kennedy, and journalist/author Stephen Fried. It focuses on the struggle to obtain medical rights and insurance coverage for those with addiction, mental illness or other brain diseases.

Starting his political career at 20, Kennedy has spent 16 years (1995-2011) representing Rhode Island in Congress. Kennedy left Congress soon after his dad died. Hes now known as one of the One book I never expected to read is “A Common Struggle” by Patrick J. Kennedy, youngest son of the late Sen. Edward “Ted” Kennedy, and journalist/author Stephen Fried. It focuses on the struggle to obtain medical rights and insurance coverage for those with addiction, mental illness or other brain diseases.

Starting his political career at 20, Kennedy has spent 16 years (1995-2011) representing Rhode Island in Congress. Kennedy left Congress soon after his dad died. He’s now known as one of the nation’s leading voice on mental illness and addiction. He has founded the Kennedy Forum and co-founder of One Mind, both focusing on the improving the system of mental health care and addiction.

I’m not big on politics or politicians, but, as most are, I’m intrigued by the Kennedy family. With the names Kennedy and Shriver frequently in the tabloids, you might think that there are no secrets left about the powerful family. If so, you’d be wrong.

Kennedy’s book is subtitled “A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction.” His personal journey has been a hidden one of alcoholism, drug addiction and bipolar disorder, all while representing Rhode Island, promoting the Democratic party and coping with his mother’s alcoholism and other family tragedies. With resources most of us don’t have, Kennedy was able to keep his illness a secret until he made a public announcement in 2006. His place in the Kennedy family also allowed many of his escapades to be ignored or glossed over.

“A Common Struggle” is a frank, often disturbing, look at how Kennedy hid his mental health problems from family, friends and constituents until the issues no longer could be ignored. In May 2006, Kennedy crashed his car into a Capitol barrier. Later that day, he announced he was seeking help for addiction. It was the first time he publicly acknowledged that he had bipolar disorder, coupled with depression and an opiate addiction. Rehab and relapse, rehab and release – nothing was working until Kennedy finally took his situation – and recovery - seriously.

With this book, Kennedy’s struggles are laid out for all to see. He also explains what goes on behind Congressional doors as he and others pushed for “mental parity” to provide equal insurance and access to treatment offered to those with physical illnesses.

Kennedy also is open about his family, a large one filled with secrets. The entire Kennedy clan grew up, but never openly dealt with a history of tragedy, depression, alcoholism, drug addictions and overdoses. Family secrets were closely guarded, but there always was public speculation. Is Ted Kennedy an alcoholic? Why was his Aunt Rosemary kept hidden? Will Joan Kennedy drink herself to death?

Unveiling those secrets have come at a cost to Kennedy. Since his book was released, Kennedy’s brother, Teddy Jr., and mother Joan have criticized the author and claimed many of the family details are inaccurate, according to media reports.

“This issue of not talking openly about ‘these’ things is hardly just a Kennedy issue. It is a problem in most American families,” Kennedy writes. “… Nearly 25 percent of all Americans are personally affected by mental illness and addiction every day, 1/3 of all hospital stays involve these diseases, and they have a huge impact on everyone else.”

From his first year in public office, he’s pushed for equality in treatment. For anyone who enjoys politics, the push-and-pull, give-and-take dance to keep a bill alive, much less passed, is intriguing. That dance, laid out in Kennedy’s private and professional narratives, is what prevents efforts from making a real difference in the mental illness community. Those political shortcomings are compounded by the public misconception that mental illness is a personal failure rather than a medical issue, according to Kennedy.

Kennedy’s eye-opening book is a public call for action. “A Common Struggle” also is a call for understanding, not only for those with mental illness, but for all those affected by the mostly misunderstood, and often devastating, illness. As Kennedy points out, no one is immune from mental illness.
...more
5

Oct 22, 2018

For anyone not putting their heads in the sand, its glaringly obvious that America has a huge mental healthcare and addiction problem. Inspired by the challenges of their family member, Rosemary, the Kennedy family has a long history of contributing to the national discussion of mental/intellectual disabilities as well as substance abuse issues. Patrick Kennedy has made this his lifes work and his own struggles make him an authentic voice. I liked where he talks about the militarys approach to For anyone not putting their heads in the sand, it’s glaringly obvious that America has a huge mental healthcare and addiction problem. Inspired by the challenges of their family member, Rosemary, the Kennedy family has a long history of contributing to the national discussion of mental/intellectual disabilities as well as substance abuse issues. Patrick Kennedy has made this his life’s work and his own struggles make him an authentic voice. I liked where he talks about the military’s approach to these complex issues—they don’t see mental healthcare as a safety net, but rather a “force multiplier.” Kennedy frames brain health as being long overdue for being taken as seriously as our physical health. He outlines his views on how to overcome prejudice regarding how we treat the mentally ill and addicted with sincerity and wisdom. A book well worth your time! ...more
4

Oct 16, 2015

This book is actually better than expected. While the reviews have talked about Mr. Kennedy's disclosure of family secrets, I found very few surprises. As the title reminds, alcoholism and addiction and their effects on everyone involved are "a common struggle." Also of value in the book is a comprehensive review of US history of treatment for brain diseases. Mr. Kennedy is to be commended for efforts to eradicate stigma and improve mental health care. It probably helped that he asked for help This book is actually better than expected. While the reviews have talked about Mr. Kennedy's disclosure of family secrets, I found very few surprises. As the title reminds, alcoholism and addiction and their effects on everyone involved are "a common struggle." Also of value in the book is a comprehensive review of US history of treatment for brain diseases. Mr. Kennedy is to be commended for efforts to eradicate stigma and improve mental health care. It probably helped that he asked for help and collaborated with a co-author. ...more
5

Oct 17, 2015

A worthwhile and honest read if you are looking for information on how this country has struggled to help those with mental illness and addiction. This is not a "tell all" about the Kennedy family but one man's unflinching look at his lifelong struggle with disease. Bravo, Mr. Kennedy.
3

Nov 04, 2015

I walked away from this book understanding Patrick Kennedy's passion for policy work on mental health and substance abuse disorders, but felt his drive for policy work reflected a symptom of illness as much as his family legacy. While I am truly happy for his current recovery, I couldn't help but wonder why the role of ego was never directly addressed in this book. I do thank Kennedy for his tireless work on behalf of those of us who experience co-occurring disorders - particularly for his I walked away from this book understanding Patrick Kennedy's passion for policy work on mental health and substance abuse disorders, but felt his drive for policy work reflected a symptom of illness as much as his family legacy. While I am truly happy for his current recovery, I couldn't help but wonder why the role of ego was never directly addressed in this book. I do thank Kennedy for his tireless work on behalf of those of us who experience co-occurring disorders - particularly for his commitment to parity - and wish him the best in his own recovery. ...more
3

Oct 05, 2015

This is almost two books in one: First, Patrick Kennedy's personal struggle with addiction and mental illness, and, second, an insider's account of how federal legislation on mental health insurance and funding has evolved. In fact, his descriptions of how the parity legislation evolved are probably the best parts of the book.

Although the book has generated some comment in the media suggesting that Kennedy spilled his family's secrets, there's really nothing scandalizing or surprising.
5

Oct 24, 2015

I discovered this book at my favorite bookstore, Changing Hands in a prominent display. I was attracted to the subject matter of brain disease as a person that struggles with mental illness and living a successful adult life (family, job, parenting) and over twenty year investment in the idea of destigmatizing mental illness.

I read this book in two nights, I could not put it down. Patrick Kennedy's addiction issues and battle for sobriety while wearing the mantle of his nervous system was I discovered this book at my favorite bookstore, Changing Hands in a prominent display. I was attracted to the subject matter of brain disease as a person that struggles with mental illness and living a successful adult life (family, job, parenting) and over twenty year investment in the idea of destigmatizing mental illness.

I read this book in two nights, I could not put it down. Patrick Kennedy's addiction issues and battle for sobriety while wearing the mantle of his nervous system was humbling, especially when I recognized that I was the beneficiary of his public policy work. Without his life work I would not be able to afford the medication or the care that I receive for my own diagnoses that have allowed me to live a stable life and be a productive person.

I think that Patrick Kennedy's affluence made it even harder for him to stay sober as his status and influence allowed him access to doctor's, prescription drugs and set him up for decades of struggle. My heart went out to him.

I especially enjoyed reading this book after reading Neurotribes, a necessary but excruciating read about the history of autism and autism therapies. The overlap in conversation about therapies and diagnoses in the DSM were easier to swallow in Patrick's book. After reading a Common Struggle I plan to read Ted Kennedy's memoir again, but this time bearing in mind the perspective of his amazing son. ...more
3

Oct 07, 2015

Patrick Kennedy writes openly about his struggles with mental illness and drug addiction. Part personal memoir, part recollections of his impassioned work in passing the legislative action for Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. He is very transparent regarding his family's code of silence about, well almost everything, but addiction in particular. He is presently sober, and one can only hope that in writing this memoir that his demons are released. For good.
5

Oct 13, 2015

Received from Netgalley. Very insightful and helpful book describing the need to understand and treat mental illness and addiction.
4

Sep 07, 2019

Patrick J. Kennedy (hereafter PJK) served as a US Congress-
man for Rhode Island, mental health advocate, & helped
create the non-profit One Mind to educate the public about
& do research on, mental illness. PJK frankly discussed his
bipolar disorder, & addiction to alcohol, cocaine, Adderall,
and script pain medication (after a neck injury/ subsequent
surgery). At various points he lived in Mass, Virginia, R.I.
and Wash DC, so his doctors were unaware he had multiple
scripts for the Patrick J. Kennedy (hereafter PJK) served as a US Congress-
man for Rhode Island, mental health advocate, & helped
create the non-profit One Mind to educate the public about
& do research on, mental illness. PJK frankly discussed his
bipolar disorder, & addiction to alcohol, cocaine, Adderall,
and script pain medication (after a neck injury/ subsequent
surgery). At various points he lived in Mass, Virginia, R.I.
and Wash DC, so his doctors were unaware he had multiple
scripts for the same med. PJK was sober 4.5 yrs as of the
writing of this book.

US Senator Ted Kennedy & classically trained pianist wife
Joan were alcoholics who experienced depression. But never
wanted to admit their perceived weaknesses. Yrs later Joan
described her struggles. Ted & Joan begot Kara, Teddy Jr. &
PJK who all had separate drug rehab stays. Ditto for Joan.
PJK felt closest to his sibs & cous Tim Shriver, along w/ PJK's
1st AA sponsor Jim Ramstad, US Congressman (Minnesota.)
Pat and Ted loved each other, but they had a complex
relationship. Joan's debilitating alcohol dependence made
her withdraw from her children and her life. Pat loved Joan
& appreciated her more w/ the passage of time.

Pat introduced a mental health parity bill in the House &
Ted and Pete Dominici in the Senate, but each bill had
separate goals. Pat wanted to protect all patients with
a mental health diagnosis, per the DSM (clinical manual
defining mental illness diagnoses) & those with substance
abuse. Ted's bill would include "severe mental illness" IE
schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder
ONLY, but exclude subtance abuse. Eventually they
compromised on the 2 versions, and it became law.

I worked 15 yrs in mental health, in : adult partial hospital-
ization (supervised by a psychologist) & adult day care, both
using a mental health model. I also have 2 sibs w/ bipolar.

Here are some things my PhD boss taught me -
1) the onset of mental illness occurs in the teen yrs or early
20s, but the earlier onset, the more SEVERE the case
2) if a patient uses addictive substances (alcohol, script
drugs, street drugs) + psych meds, the substances NEGATE
any benefit of the psych meds.
3) after a time, some psych meds lose their effectiveness.
This depended on the patient's unique needs.
4) each time a patient mentally decompensates, IE goes off
his psychiatric medication (AMA), more damage to his brain
occurs
5) some patients use substances to cope with or mask their
symptoms, such as auditory hallucinations.
6) PJK went on "a drug holiday" w/ assist of his caregiver.
This can be DANGEROUS w/o direct supervision of an MD.
7) drug court is fine, but not every patient qualifies for this.

I admire PJK for reaching out to folks in all walks of life. He
could afford drug rehab b/c the US Congress had/ has primo
healthcare benefits. My homeless clients (yet another job)
had to call in daily to a clearinghouse for a rehab bed: 1st
come 1st served. Some days zero beds, some days 1 bed only.
If a homeless person was diabetic, he had to prove stable
A1C1 levels, all had to have active insurance coverage arrange
a 30 day script supply. Much more difficult than a Congress-
man having several staffers & docs arrange his stay. Also
PJK, by his own admission, squandered some rehab stays by
not taking them seriously.

This was a well-thought out book. However the policy fight
details should have been shortened or summarized. I'm glad
Patrick met his wife Amy, a real-deal person who gave him
hope but also felt comfortable enough to ? his behavior(s)
when need be.

Patrick sensitively discussed special mental health needs of
past/ present US military: TBI, PTSD, & suicide. Pat had a
knack for bringing together people of divergent talents:
scientists, academics, doctors, pharma cos, researchers,
policy makers, bean counters, insurance cos, to improve
the lives of Americans who happened to have a mental
illness or substance abuse, or both. ...more
5

Jun 17, 2017

I heard this book was about Patrick Kennedy's struggle with mental illness but it turns out to be so much more. He speaks frankly about his illness and the impact it had on his family and career. But he also explains the struggle to obtain healthcare coverage in Congress and is very informative about how Congress works. It turns out it is very complicated. Who knew?

The book is very well written and appears to be very honest and courageous in the way Mr. Kennedy describes his experiences. He does I heard this book was about Patrick Kennedy's struggle with mental illness but it turns out to be so much more. He speaks frankly about his illness and the impact it had on his family and career. But he also explains the struggle to obtain healthcare coverage in Congress and is very informative about how Congress works. It turns out it is very complicated. Who knew?

The book is very well written and appears to be very honest and courageous in the way Mr. Kennedy describes his experiences. He does not sugar coat his story.

The book provides both resources for those dealing with mental illness and those who are interested in working to improve care for mental illness. He includes a list of many actions that can be taken on a local, state and federal level to improve the perception, treatment, and coverage of mental illnesses.

I feel this is an important book not only for those interested in mental illness and insurance coverage but for anyone interested in the inner workings of Congress. ...more
4

Jul 02, 2016

This book was illuminating for me, as Patrick Kennedy was my congressman and as a physician I've heard him speak, and while he appeared deeply committed to mental health advocacy, his public speaking--which I now know occurred when he was quite ill--conveyed deep emotion but also his dysfunction. As I now provide care for patients with serious mental illness-who have little to no resources--his brave and honest story of his mental illness/addiction, which was not controlled despite all of his This book was illuminating for me, as Patrick Kennedy was my congressman and as a physician I've heard him speak, and while he appeared deeply committed to mental health advocacy, his public speaking--which I now know occurred when he was quite ill--conveyed deep emotion but also his dysfunction. As I now provide care for patients with serious mental illness-who have little to no resources--his brave and honest story of his mental illness/addiction, which was not controlled despite all of his resources, resonates deeply. The book was a fascinating look at his family, congress, and mental illness/addiction. His co-writer and he have crafted a well written compelling book that provides the back story of Patrick and the Kennedy story. As a physician, I caring for a population of mentally ill and addicted patients, I don't think the solution is easy but I'm glad that he prevailed with mental health parity law. ...more
3

Apr 01, 2016

A personal and a political memoir-- growing up and living as a Kennedy, growing up and living with a mental illness, growing up the child of an alcoholic, growing up and living as an addict, and living as a congressman trying to make a difference, especially in the field of mental health and addiction.

I found it amazing that Kennedy was able to accomplish anything with his mental illness and addictions. The story is a bit drawn out and the repetitive relapses tiresome; that's just the reality A personal and a political memoir-- growing up and living as a Kennedy, growing up and living with a mental illness, growing up the child of an alcoholic, growing up and living as an addict, and living as a congressman trying to make a difference, especially in the field of mental health and addiction.

I found it amazing that Kennedy was able to accomplish anything with his mental illness and addictions. The story is a bit drawn out and the repetitive relapses tiresome; that's just the reality of mental illness and addiction but doesn't make for easy reading.

Fortunately, Kennedy had the resources and was able to get the help he needed, and he realized how fortunate he was for that. His personal struggles were the basis for his advocacy for mental health and addiction treat parity so that everyone can receive the necessary treatment. ...more
5

Sep 29, 2018

A fairly technical--but extremely emotional--delve into mental health and substance abuse issues. I found it a difficult, but appropriate follow-up to Dopesick in taking Beth Macy's journalistic endeavor to a highly personal level. Many off us are "casually" aware of the Kennedy family trials with mental health and addiction diseases, but Patrick Kennedy's frank and open honesty brings his own fight to a level we can all relate to. His struggle to become healthy, while making it a public policy A fairly technical--but extremely emotional--delve into mental health and substance abuse issues. I found it a difficult, but appropriate follow-up to Dopesick in taking Beth Macy's journalistic endeavor to a highly personal level. Many off us are "casually" aware of the Kennedy family trials with mental health and addiction diseases, but Patrick Kennedy's frank and open honesty brings his own fight to a level we can all relate to. His struggle to become healthy, while making it a public policy mandate/priority, is impressive,honorable and humbling. I'm a huge fan. ...more
5

Oct 28, 2015

A hard knocks policy book on addiction and mental health issues. This is a must read for anyone suffering from or an advocate for addiction and/or mental illness. The brain is no different from the heart or kidneys when it comes to patient care. A healthy populace relies heavily on adequate, available, and trust worthy care for the body's entire system, especially the brain!! A big thanks to PJK for writing this book. His journey is shared in loneliness by so many others.
5

Dec 06, 2015

Wonderful! I couldn't put this book down. Patrick Kennedy is remarkable. I appreciate his candor in writing this book. Lots more to be done in this area, including access to mental health treatment for all especially those on Medicaid.
4

Aug 20, 2017

This is a fascinating book in that former US Representative Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) details his experiences with alcohol and substance abuse and bi-polar disorder and his many attempts to treat and overcome them. Trying to deal with either alcohol/substance abuse or bi-polar disorder is a Herculean task. Coping with both at the same time seems almost insurmountable. Kennedy tried and failed many, many times, despite all the advantages afforded him as a Kennedy and as a US Congressman. He also This is a fascinating book in that former US Representative Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) details his experiences with alcohol and substance abuse and bi-polar disorder and his many attempts to treat and overcome them. Trying to deal with either alcohol/substance abuse or bi-polar disorder is a Herculean task. Coping with both at the same time seems almost insurmountable. Kennedy tried and failed many, many times, despite all the advantages afforded him as a Kennedy and as a US Congressman. He also realized that if he was failing with all his advantages, what was the everyday American supposed to do. He turned his own struggles into advocacy for mental health and substance abuse care, leading the fight for and passage of the landmark Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. He eventually left Congress, maintained his sobriety, married and started a family and founded the Kennedy Forum, which unites the community of mental health and co-founded One Mind, a global leader in science collaboration.

Kennedy goes into a lot of detail about his childhood and his relationship with his family, especially his father. He was always afraid of family "secrets" being exposed, so he was afraid to be open in group therapy meetings. He wrote that he was in a bookstore one and didn't realize until then that most of these "secrets" were already written about in books.

He had a very difficult relationship with his father, and he is very honest about this. Maybe too honest. At times it felt like the book was a bit of payback. But it also could not have been easy being Ted Kennedy's son either. Ted Kennedy never really admitted to his own imperfections. At least Patrick lays his open to everyone. There were reports in the press that some family members were upset by this book. Well boo-freaking-hoo. This is his truth about his journey.

This book also has a lot of policy discussions. A lot of them. If you are a political policy wonk, you will be in your glory. If not, then bear with it. At least the policy sections are well written.

There is a lot to like in this book. Kennedy is very open and honest about his personal failings. He gets a lot of support from very unexpected sources. There are a lot of just heartbreaking stories, along with his own. A big take away is that bi-polar disorder, substance abuse and alcoholism are not moral failings, they are illnesses. Just like cancer, diabetes or asthma. And should be treated as such by the public and by insurance companies. He is spending the rest of his life making sure this happens. Hopefully sober. One day at a time. ...more
3

Nov 25, 2017

I work in a hospital, and this book was chosen by my employer as an overall system-wide book that people in our health system were encouraged to read together and discuss (they've been choosing one book a year for this program). It's written by Patrick Kennedy, former congressman and son of the late Ted Kennedy. It's a combination of personal memoir and political story about mental health and addiction. He tells his own very personal struggle with both mental health issues (bipolar) and I work in a hospital, and this book was chosen by my employer as an overall system-wide book that people in our health system were encouraged to read together and discuss (they've been choosing one book a year for this program). It's written by Patrick Kennedy, former congressman and son of the late Ted Kennedy. It's a combination of personal memoir and political story about mental health and addiction. He tells his own very personal struggle with both mental health issues (bipolar) and addiction (especially alcohol and prescription drug abuse). At the same time, he tells about the political history of how we have dealt with mental health and addiction in this country, and how he and others fought for better treatment, research and insurance coverage for these issues.

I really appreciated his honesty and openness to deal with these issues in his own life, and how that brings the issue to life. It does get a bit bogged down in the nitty-gritty of politics (lots of names of various polititians, who was on what committee, and various bills during various years, etc). It felt a bit wooden at times (like "then this happened, then I did this, then this happened..."). However, I think it's such an important topic and you can definitely see the passion he has for bringing this to light. It weaves in the story of the Kennedy family and he deals with the reality of being a Kennedy and how that has affected him for better or worse. He doesn't shy away from his own failings the messy reality of the ups and downs of this type of struggle. And it's very timely with the current epidemic of opioid abuse and significant mental health issues in this country. If you're at all interested in learning more about this, I would recommend giving it a try. ...more
1

Nov 16, 2017

About Patrick Kennedy's personal and political struggles with mental health, and a lot about the rest of his family. I thought it would be much more engaging. Instead it was like a dose of politics...round and round again and again, very little progress and here we go again. Nope, didn't work for me.
5

Oct 30, 2015

A Common Struggle is a wise and compassionate book about the fight for funding and parity for people with substance abuse and mental illness and a highly personal account of Mr. Kennedy's own struggles with these issues. What I found compelling about the book was Mr Kennedy's ability to make us care about people with mental illness and substance abuse and to equally care about Mr Kennedy's own personal journey. I was fascinated with the blow-by-blow descriptions of how Mr Kennedy built A Common Struggle is a wise and compassionate book about the fight for funding and parity for people with substance abuse and mental illness and a highly personal account of Mr. Kennedy's own struggles with these issues. What I found compelling about the book was Mr Kennedy's ability to make us care about people with mental illness and substance abuse and to equally care about Mr Kennedy's own personal journey. I was fascinated with the blow-by-blow descriptions of how Mr Kennedy built coalitions, formed alliances, handled naysayers and moved others forward, including his father, to gain mental health parity and I learned so much about the political process and how to make change. As a social worker who knows quite a bit about the impact of deinstitutionalization on community mental health I was riveted by his descriptions and so impressed with his deep knowledge of the issues. At times I felt like I was reading a thriller to see what would happen next and whether and whether he would succeed (Yes and No-there is so much work to be done).

I know that this book has caused rifts in Mr Kennedy's family due to some of his disclosures. Having lived in Boston for 35 years there is really no new information that wasn't already known. I actually feel more compassion for Senator Kennedy as his son described the burdens that he carried and the PTSD that haunted him. And the same is true for Patrick Kennedy who I have not always sympathized with as he crashed cars and went in and out of hospitals. What I now see is how amazing it is that despite this he could still make some of the most important changes in mental health law on a national scale. Very brave.

Thank you to NetGalley for allowing me to review this book. ...more

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