This would be a good time to talk about mental illness

The Kennedy clan is circling the wagons after Patrick Kennedy, son of the late Edward Kennedy, released his book detailing his struggles with substance abuse and bipolar disorder.

The Kennedys aren’t generally open when it comes to the family secrets, 60 Minutes anchor Leslie Stahl noted in her interview with the former congressman about his new book, “A Common Struggle.”


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‘‘My brother’s recollections of family events and particularly our parents are quite different from my own,’’ Ted Kennedy Jr., said in a statement yesterday.

He said he was heartbroken that his brother “had chosen to write an inaccurate and unfair portrayal of our family’’ that was ‘‘misleading and hurtful.’’

The statement pretty much made Patrick Kennedy’s point.

“What I talk about is what we all know but we don’t say anything about it,” he told CBS This Morning today. “So when you do say something, it is hurtful. It’ll kill you if you don’t talk about it.”

Much of the attention on the book has focused on Kennedy’s belief that his father suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder over the murder of his two brothers, and that he self-medicated with alcohol.

It’s understandable that the media would latch on to the past and the Kennedy family secrets, but doing so risks missing the reality about life today that Kennedy is trying to get us to understand.

“It’s crucial to change public policy,” he said today. “Look at the tragedies, like Umpqua. All of them are the result of a failed mental health system. How many of the other shooters should’ve been brought into treatment? This is a public health epidemic and I’m telling you my story; it’s just a small story in light of what most families face.”

“You know someone in your family has a psychosis, but you don’t say a word.”

“I want to make sure for my children… that they don’t have to grow up with this fear. That someone can talk to them if they have an issue,” he said.

We say all the right things. We’re pretty good at talking about talking about it, John Oliver noted on his show last evening. We’re just not very good at talking about it.

Coincidentally, this is Mental Health Awareness Week.

Related: Should media withhold names of shooters? (CNN)

Why we’ve probably overestimated the benefits of psychotherapy for depression (Vox)