Yahoo News Special Report: Patrick Kennedy breaks silence on family's addiction secrets

By Alex Bregman and Bianna Golodryga

Former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, the youngest son of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, is going where no Kennedy has gone before. In his new book, A Common Struggle, he is opening up about his family’s long history with mental illness and addiction, and dealing with tragedy along the way. He spoke about his book and the backlash it has received from his own family with Yahoo News and Finance Anchor Bianna Golodryga.

Of the backlash from his brother and mother, he said: “I have a family that’s very resilient and, like most things, time does heal things. Initially there is some shock, but when people see what the end goal is, to help this country, that is what my family is all about. Once we are able to look at the big picture, they will feel they are doing something important, because my family has had a big role in history.”

Kennedy himself has struggled with addiction and bipolar disorder. He told Golodryga that the turning point for him was driving his car into a barricade outside the Capitol in 2006, an incident he only vaguely remembers. He said, “When I got that phone call from my chief of staff [after the accident]: ‘We have a problem,’ I felt the floor had pulled out from underneath me. …[T]hat experience is what a lot of us have that suffer from this. I still struggled after that, but it feels good to have helped get that law passed.”

On his relationship with his father, he said, “We were able to be not only father and son, but colleagues, and the notion that I got to argue about what mental health should look like and the diseases that we struggle [with]. …What a coup for me to be in the Oval Office with my dad on my side. I had a chance to have a more developed relationship with my father than most sons can say, and I’m very lucky to [have] have it.”

He hopes that in breaking his family’s silence, he reduces the stigma surrounding mental illness in this country. He said, “We know we have a problem but we aren’t going to talk about it. That’s what makes the problem worse.”