The granddaughter of late Senator Robert F. Kennedy, Saoirse Kennedy Hill, was found dead of an apparent drug overdose at the family’s compound near Cape Cod on August 1st of 2019. Saoirse was only twenty-two years old. This isn’t the first time that the Kennedy family has been touched by tragedy, or addiction. One of Robert F. Kennedy’s sons, David Kennedy, also died in 1984 of a drug overdose in a Florida hotel at the young age of twenty-eight.
The day prior to the accident, the soon-to-be Boston College senior spent time with her family at their summer home in Hyannis Port. That night Saoirse had dinner with her grandmother Ethel Kennedy, the 91-year-old family matriarch, after finishing an essay for school. Afterward, the pair watched the second night of the latest Democratic debates – Saoirse was a stark democrat.
Saoirse then went out with friends to a local bar and restaurant, Embargo, where she sang karaoke. She was back at the family’s estate later that Thursday morning, but didn’t go to bed. Instead, she ventured out to the beach at the edge of the compound to go swimming in the nearby Atlantic and watch the sunrise. She swam alone and then was in bed around 6:30 that morning. As she had had such a late night, no one in the family wanted to disturb her later that day; however, when the clock struck close to 1 p.m. the family became worried when she was still not up.
Emergency responders arrived at the Kennedy Compound at about 2 p.m. that afternoon. Saoirse was found in bed unconscious and unresponsive. She was transported to Cape Code Hospital, where she was then pronounced dead upon arrival.
Our hearts are shattered by the loss of our beloved Saoirse. Her life was filled with hope, promise, and love. She cared deeply about friends and family, especially her mother Courtney, her father Paul, her stepmother Stephanie, and her grandmother Ethel.
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Saoirse has long struggled with mental illness and was very passionate about bringing public awareness to these issues. In an effort to dismantle the stigma that surrounds mental health, she wrote a 2016 essay that detailed her battle with depression for the newspaper at her private high school, Deerfield Academy.
“My depression took root in the beginning of my middle school years and will be with me for the rest of my life,” she wrote. “Although I was mostly a happy child, I suffered bouts of deep sadness that felt like a heavy boulder on my chest.” In that essay, she also revealed that she had attempted suicide just prior to her junior year of high school. Since that incident, she said that she was taking her health into her own hands and receiving professional health.
People talk about cancer freely; why is it so difficult to discuss the effects of depression, [bipolar disorder], anxiety, or schizophrenic disorders? Just because the illness may not be outwardly visible doesn’t mean the person suffering from it isn’t struggling.
It’s unknown whether Saoirse’s struggles with mental illness were related to her suspected overdose.
The Kennedys are hoping that a light can come from their tragedy – that people will remember Saoirse for the great mental health activist she was and emulate her passion for educating and creating awareness among the public.
Jena Hilliard earned her Bachelor’s of Arts degree from the University of Central Florida in English Literature. She has always had a passion for literature and the written word. Upon graduation, Jena found her purpose in educating the public on addiction and helping those that struggle with substance dependency find the best treatment options available.
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