In his new book, Patrick J. Kennedy portrays those facing mental health struggles as courageous

Date:

Maria

Today is an exciting day as we delve into the topic of mental health courage with my cousin, Patrick Kennedy. He’s the author of a new book titled “Profiles in Mental Health Courage,” which just launched. I had the privilege of interviewing Patrick exclusively about this incredible book. He’s doing amazing work, and the stories shared in the book are truly inspiring. Patrick has redefined the concept of courage through these narratives.

Patrick J. Kennedy

Oh, fantastic. You always begin with such fantastic energy!

Patrick J. Kennedy portrays those facing mental health struggles as courageous
Patrick J. Kennedy portrays those facing mental health struggles as courageous

Maria

Oh, I was just expressing how inspiring you are. First, I want to greet everyone who’s joined us from all over the country and around the world. Happy Tuesday to you all, and a special shout-out for today being the publication day of Patrick’s new book, “Profiles in Mental Health Courage.” Patrick is not only an advocate but also a trailblazer and a key figure driving change in the mental health field. He’s tirelessly working day in and day out to make a difference for people. I’ve had the pleasure of reading his book, so congratulations, Patrick!

Maria

Oh, that’s wonderful to hear. It’s great that you explored the concept of courage in your book. I’ve actually been pondering the same question myself lately. I really resonated with your words, particularly when you wrote, “The truth is the most courageous people I know are qualified not for what they do in public, but for what they can overcome and persevere through in private. This rings particularly true for individuals facing daily challenges with mental illness, addiction, or both, as well as those supporting loved ones through similar struggles. It’s true, isn’t it? We often focus on our public image, but it’s the private battles that truly define us. Your book delves into these personal struggles, which is so important. What inspired you to take that approach?

Patrick J. Kennedy

In my own life, I discovered the struggle of balancing my external appearance with my internal feelings. We often create false distinctions between the two. Being in public life for so long, I felt the pressure to maintain a certain image outwardly, regardless of what I was going through internally. This led to a very difficult existence for me.

Through the stories shared in my book, I want people to understand that they are not alone in their experiences. In the realm of mental health, we often only hear a sanitized version of people’s journeys. For instance, amid the COVID era, more individuals are open about having a diagnosis, but they seldom share more beyond that. When someone like Simone Biles struggles publicly, there’s often a lack of understanding from others who wonder why she can’t simply “snap out of it.” However, that may be all she feels comfortable revealing.

It’s crucial for us to recognize that mental health challenges are complex and ongoing. Even those who have made progress may still face setbacks. Unfortunately, in our society, there’s an expectation of everything turning out perfectly in the end. I want people to realize they are not alone if they continue to struggle, and setbacks do not make them failures.

By reducing this sense of isolation, especially prevalent due to social media and the pressure to compare ourselves with others, we can help individuals with mental health issues feel less disconnected. They need to understand that their experiences are not unique and that many others are navigating similar ups and downs every day. Life isn’t always neat and tidy, contrary to the expectations we often place on ourselves. When things don’t go perfectly, it’s essential not to sink further into despair but to recognize the ongoing nature of the journey.

Maria

You mentioned in our conversation that despite the profiles in your book, people still face ongoing struggles, and society often prefers stories to be neatly wrapped up. At the start of our interview, you described your own life as treacherous, highlighting the difficulty of aligning your public image with your private reality.

As you engage with individuals through these mental health profiles and navigate your own challenges, what message do you hope to convey? Whether you’re a parent, a spouse, or experiencing mental health challenges yourself, what’s important for people to understand about the normalcy of life’s ups and downs in this context?

Patrick J. Kennedy

Indeed, what sets this book apart is its unique approach. Most of the stories are told from a first-person perspective, offering a personal account of struggles and experiences. It’s not just “here’s my story,” but delves into what family members, coworkers, sons, daughters, or parents think and feel about the individual’s challenges.

In some cases, we included insights from family members who initially hesitated to share their perspective. However, we believed it was important to present a realistic narrative, acknowledging that many families face communication barriers due to mental health issues. The goal is authenticity, to portray the complexities of these experiences truthfully.

Maria

I hope you can still hear me while we wait for Patrick to reconnect. I want to share something about the book I’ve read—it features truly extraordinary individuals, real profiles in courage. Patrick emphasizes the courage we exhibit in our private battles, the unseen struggles we face every day. It takes immense courage to wake up each morning and confront the world, especially when our loved ones may not fully understand. Sharing our journeys and admitting our struggles require tremendous bravery. This book is titled “Profiles in Mental Health Courage.”

Maria 

I just want to emphasize again, as people join and leave, the name of the book released today is “Profiles in Mental Health Courage.” It’s not only a compelling and inspiring read but also makes a great gift and conversation starter. Throughout the book, there’s a discussion on redefining courage—Patrick touches on changing his own definition in the introduction. He also shares personal struggles, highlighting the challenges within his own family and the journey towards sobriety, whether emotional or otherwise. Many people are fighting for their lives in various ways, and this is a key theme explored in the book.

Patrick J. Kennedy 

Yes, your mom and my mom have had a longstanding connection. Your mom has been incredibly supportive of mine over the years. Throughout her life, my mom has battled alcoholism, and regrettably, society often marginalized her because of it. I, too, adopted this perspective and viewed her as someone who couldn’t keep up or stay on track. It’s taken me a long time to shift my mindset and accept that my mom was doing her best given her circumstances.

Through researching my family history, I discovered that my grandmother passed away from alcoholism at the age of 61, alone in a small apartment in Cocoa Beach, Florida, undiscovered for over a week. This realization has given me a deeper appreciation for my mom’s struggles, and I regret spending so much of my life judging her based on societal perceptions.

We all need to challenge and repair these outdated viewpoints. No one wakes up intending to ruin their lives or hurt their loved ones. It’s their disease that takes control, not their desire for love or respect. I want to be part of a collective effort that helps liberate individuals from the grip of addiction.

 

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