Dec 19, 2015

Non-Fiction Saturday: A Common Struggle by Patrick Kennedy & Stephen Fried

It's Saturday and that means another great non-fiction book recommendation and review from Emerson Clauss for Non-Fiction Saturday. The book, A COMMON STRUGGLE deals with the sensitive, but very current topic of mental health.

A COMMON STRUGGLE by Patrick J. Kennedy and Stephen Fried is a book highlighting the courage and sacrifice to share a personal story of one person’s shortcomings and “demons”.  Kennedy shares his personal tribulations dealing with mental health challenges, so as to enlighten us and show us there are solutions to these problems.  The book is not a “tell all”, like the many we have seen about the Kennedy clan.  Only when it helps tell his story, does Patrick include the influence of his immediate family, then the more encompassing, Kennedy extended Family.  Obviously, his immediate family, including his most famous and notable father Ted, are in his story.
With the topic of mental health so much in the news today, but rarely talked about in depth or with solutions and treatment in mind, Kennedy pierces that veil.  He speaks openly of his battles, sometimes daily, to function in the real world.  He is brutal in his honesty and shares how his family and congressional staff, after election to public office, help him function daily and sometimes cover for his dis-function.
Probably most of us cannot imagine the pressure “A Kennedy” grows up under; that alone is probably overwhelming.  Add to that, personality traits that are genetic as well as destructive habits totally ingrained in your familial culture; the fact he or any Kennedy child survives this gauntlet is amazing.  
Patrick chronicles his battles, while in school, onto college and into public life.  This is an insider’s account of what a young adult, from a prominent family does, as he moves from the protected world of private schools and colleges, into adult life; with all that he implores to try to be functioning ‘as expected’.  
His coping mechanisms include prescribed medications, others drugs used not from prescriptions, alcohol abuse, and how quickly all of this can get out of control.  For someone who is already struggling with very complex issues before any medication/alcohol abuse; this is a big challenge.
In following with so many of his family’s decisions to enter public life, Kennedy chooses the same.  He starts small, than runs for the US Congress; winning a seat in Rhode Island.  He uses this platform to start in earnest, his fight for Mental Health parity, for inclusion in insurance offerings and covered health issues, and for de-stigmatizing the diagnosis itself.  He expends much of his time and political capitol on this most personal issue; he has (had) some big successes we still benefit from today
The only thing I had to keep fighting to keep out of my head while reading this book, is that Patrick chronicles what and how a person of privilege is able to afford help, hire folks to assist, and always have his family’s wealth to count and fall back on for assistance; something most us would never be able to afford; a safety net we do not have.  
If this story could get lost in this privileged reality, Patrick does well to bring it back down to earth.  He shares how important certain people become; the ones who understand the illness and those who will support your recovery, every minute of every day.  This book is full of personal insight and raw feelings; it is compelling.
At the time Patrick was in Congress, he made Mental Health his obsession.  He has since made its awareness, discussion and availability of treatment, his life’s work through his foundation and ongoing efforts today.  

For anyone who has struggled with mental illness and available treatment, this is an important book. For anyone who has tried to help someone with mental health issues, whether successful or not; this book is helpful.  For anyone who wants to make a difference in our society in reference to mental health and how it affects us all; this book is a must read.

I** If you'd like to discuss this book or other non-fiction with Emerson, he can be reached at

Authors: Patrick Kennedy & Stephen Fried
Publisher: Blue Rider Press
Published: October 5, 2015
Length: 425pp


  1. Replies
    1. Yes, hopefully it will bring more awareness for this ever-growing issue. Thanks for your comment Kathy!


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