Kennedy: Williams’ death shows need for awareness

Former congressman Patrick Kennedy. (WPRI 12)

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — We know Robin Williams struggled with addiction and depression, though he was a wildly successful actor and world-class comedian. Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, who now advocates for awareness of mental health problems and treatment, says he hopes the shock from Williams’ loss serves as a wake-up call for the rest of the country.

Wit and charm from the big screen to local comedy clubs in a decades-long career gave the appearance Robin Williams was happy, emotionally healthy and vibrant. A decades-long struggle from drug addiction to depression became very real Monday, when he was found dead of a suspected suicide.

But, “Yesterday Robin Williams wasn’t the only person to take his life. There were one hundred other Americans who took their lives, yesterday alone,” cited Kennedy Tuesday morning.

The former congressman was speaking with senior citizens at a local campaign event for Providence Mayor Angel Taveras’s run for governor. Kennedy went on to say that while we mourn the loss of a Hollywood icon, not only will a hundred other people — who are icons to their families — take their lives each day, two thousand more will make an attempt.

Mental disorders and related issues are pervasive in our society today, says Kennedy. Examples? “There isn’t a person in this country that doesn’t have — a child with a developmental disability — a parent with dementia — a brother or sister with addiction or depression,” he said. “We need to take it seriously, to make sure our brain health is protected the same way our heart health is, our lung health, our kidney health.”

Kennedy championed a 2008 act to overcome insurance discrimination against people with illness or substance disorders. But through Williams’ death, he hopes there is a new conversation about research and the legacy of care.

If someone like Robin Williams was unable to access the help he needed, imagine the challenges for anyone else, Kennedy said.

suicide prevention hotline

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