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A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction Hardcover – October 5, 2015

4.2 out of 5 stars 255 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“A stunningly unvarnished portrait of one of America’s most private public families..."

"Searching and fearless." --Kevin Cullen, The Boston Globe

“I, am personally, really proud of Patrick. I think what he’s doing is consistent with everything that my family has stood for...he needed to start that journey by telling his own story of mental illness. I think it’s noble, and it’s heroic, and I have nothing but admiration for him.”
--Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on “Ring of Fire” radio
"[Patrick Kennedy] has undeniably turned his fame toward a good cause — of raising understanding about the prevalence of mental illness and addiction in our society, and the need to help our brothers and sisters who cannot help themselves. There are easier ways to make money than speaking out honestly about one’s own life, and we admire the courage Mr. Kennedy has shown in discussing these difficult issues."
--Editorial Board, Providence Journal

"Fascinating ... This book is a must-read, not only for those suffering from mental health and substance use disorders, but also for the professionals who treat them and for those who pay for that treatment."
--Dr. George Koob, Director National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Clinical Psychiatry News

"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." --Wichita Times
“His new memoir, which recounts the troubles he and his famous family experienced, will help move the needle when it comes to public policy regarding mental health and substance abuse.... it shine[s] a needed light on a serious problem.”
--Editorial Board, The Oklahoman

“If your readers do nothing else today, they should buy or order this remarkable book ... I always admired Kennedy’s passion and willingness to fight not only on mental illness issues but also such topics as gay rights and gun control. This book should enhance your understanding and appreciation of the work he did in Congress and the ambitious mental health initiatives he is leading now. And for the happiness of his marriage and fatherhood...”
--Charlie Bakst, on WPRI TV blog

“I think Patrick Kennedy is quite courageous for bringing this book out. ... What he is doing is really the equivalent of what Betty Ford did when she exposed her own alcoholism."
--Dr. Thomas McLelland, former deputy director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, on MSNBC

"Patrick Kennedy should receive a profile in courage award for his book, A Common Struggle..."
-- Dan Rea, CBS-TV Boston

About the Author

The Honorable Patrick J. Kennedy is a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and the nation’s leading political voice on mental illness, addiction, and other brain diseases. During his 16-year career representing Rhode Island in Congress, he fought a national battle to end medical and societal discrimination against these illnesses, highlighted by his lead sponsorship of the Mental Health Parity and Addictions Equity Act of 2008--and his brave openness about his own health challenges. The son of Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy, he decided to leave Congress not long after his father’s death to devote his career to advocacy for brain diseases and to create a new, healthier life and start a family. He has since founded the Kennedy Forum, which unites the community of mental health, and co-founded One Mind for Research, which sponsors brain research and open science collaboration. He lives in New Jersey with his wife, Amy, and their four children.
Stephen Fried is an award-winning magazine journalist, a best-selling author and an adjunct professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He is the author of two books on healthcare, mental health and addiction--Bitter Pills: Inside the Hazardous World of Legal Drugs and Thing of Beauty: The Tragedy of Supermodel Gia—as well as The New Rabbi, Husbandry and his recent historical biography Appetite for America: Fred Harvey and the Business of Civilizing the Wild West—One Meal at a Time, which was a New York Times bestseller. Fried lives in Philadelphia with his wife, author Diane Ayres.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Blue Rider Press; First Edition edition (October 5, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399173323
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399173325
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (255 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,368 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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Milly and I read this book through without stopping. Finally, our eyes wet we had to stop and cry. We are not Kennedy family “camp followers”, but, our lives have intertwined with Ted’s virtually from our beginnings. Bob first encountered Ted Kennedy in the fall of 1944 as a boarding student at The Fessenden School, which Patrick later attended; Ted helped Bob on several occasions, and maybe I helped him; we have met and enjoyed the company of Patrick and Amy in recent times. Patrick and Bob share a patrilineal Irish ancestry – with the forenames of John Patrick – both of whom settled and prospered in Boston. So, following the Kennedy family over seventy years has been both joy and a virtual obsession. Think for a minute of this primogeniture conscious family – close your eyes – think again. Patrick is the youngest child of the youngest child of JP. As the bible would have it – listen to the children.
This book is terrifying in exposing the fragility of Patrick’s time on earth. And yet, he was driven by a sense of mission – the need to expose to the sentient world the realities of mental illness and the need for society and government to devote its prime resources to what he describes as the dysfunctions of the “brain”. He has been exposed to all of the well-meaning therapies of the couch and the pill. They didn’t kill him, but the book is a route map for miseries confidently administered. Ultimately, the book describes how he somewhere acquired the confidence to try it on his own. Finally, he addresses the principal problem – everyone who is exposed to the illnesses of addiction and the mind is reluctant to talk about it; everyone who is parent of a child with these problems is ashamed of their inability to help their offspring; every individual who is “mentally ill” wants to be different.
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Format: Hardcover
Patrick Kennedy grew up in a household that didn't talk about 'the elephants in the room.' (Referring to apolitical elephants.) Divorce, mother's drinking, father's drinking, bipolar disorder, depression and substance abuse - all swept under the rug. Patrick, while still a Representative in Congress, decided to admit his latest problem - a minor crash while driving DUI. For that he received condemnation from his father, Senator Ted Kennedy, but it was the first step towards taking control of his life.

Nearly one in four Americans are personally affected by mental illness and addiction every day, and one-third of all U.S. hospital stays involve those diseases. Patrick since left Congress, married, and has devoted his life to encouraging better funding of mental health care and encouraging others to confront their mental health problems. During that time, Patrick and Senator Kennedy helped pass the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act in 2008, and the Affordable Care Act has made it illegal to cover mental illness, addiction, and intellectual disabilities differently than other medical conditions. The 'bad news' is that they couldn't begin to be fully enforced until 7/1/2014 because of court challenges and delays in rule-making.

'A Common Struggle' begins in 1988 - Patrick's back is hurting, he'd already been in rehab for cocaine use during his senior year in prep school. He also suffered from asthma, depression and anxiety. Then they found a tumor on his spinal cord. Most would have taken this news as a disaster. Patrick, however, welcomed it - now his illness would be taken as seriously and sympathetically as cancer. (Luckily, it was a benign tumor.)

Turns out the Kennedy family had more than its share of greatness and personal tragedy.
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Format: Hardcover
Thank you Patrick for your Courage and Honesty and for SHARING YOUR RECOVERY!!!
I have been sober and drug free for 35 years- It is FABULOUS! yet my son and I still struggle
with our relationship due to his experiences during my active years as a young single mother- we work together on it and are making progress But he has the disease as well but is still in some denial....it does take time to surrender to THE TRUTH and can be very painful, although SO FREEING!
The disease of alcoholism and addiction is a mental illness in itself, in my humble opinion. I do not say this to berate myself or anyone who has it, it is just a fact in my opinion...i will always have this disease, regardless of how long i dont drink or use drugs,i will never be able to drink again( although i dont miss it) I dont take my sobriety for granted either... i do what i want- but i dont frequent bars with any kind of frequency;) lol
It requires HUMILITY, and a great deal of honesty on a daily basis. I went to AA for well over 20 yrs on a daily basis and would still go if i felt in anyway tempted to drink or was in any kind of crisis but things like your book are a wonderful tool for recovery as well! This kind of honesty is Key to ongoing recovery!
This is how we live. Carrying the message of recovery. Not living in shame and living in the world as other people do.
Your father was an amazing great man.. We Know weather he was an alcohlic or not did not make him any less great, just like Betty Ford was an amazinf Courages, Great woman! The people that dont see that have the problem- Most people knew something probably happening with alcohol when the terrible Chapaquidneck Accident happened- Your father would have been President if not for that!
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