Saoirse Kennedy Hill, the granddaughter of Robert F. Kennedy, has died of an apparent overdose at the age of 22.
In a statement on Thursday, the Kennedy family said that paramedics were called to a medical emergency at the family compound on Cape Cod in Hyannis Port, Mass. Although the cause of death was not originally reported, it was later revealed to be an apparent overdose, according to the New York Times.
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“Our hearts are shattered by the loss of our beloved Saoirse. Her life was filled with hope, promise and love,” the family said in the statement, quoting Kennedy Hill’s grandmother Ethel Kennedy as saying, ““The world is a little less beautiful today.”
Kennedy Hill was the daughter of Courtney Kennedy, one of 11 children born to former politician and Democratic presidential nominee Robert F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1968. Her father was Paul Michael Hill, a member of the Guildford Four, a group that was falsely accused and convicted of orchestrating an IRA pub bombing in 1974; he served three years in prison before he was release. “Saoirse” means “freedom” in Irish.
According to the New York Times, Kennedy Hill was a graduate of Boston College who was vice president of the school’s college Democrats, and volunteered in Mexico to build schools in indigenous communities. She spoke openly about her struggles with mental illness, writing an impassioned op-ed on the subject for the student newspaper at her alma mater, Deerfield Academy, in which she said she at one point attempted to take her own life. “Many people are suffering, but because many people feel uncomfortable talking about it, no one is aware of the sufferers. This leaves people feeling even more alone,” she wrote, calling to end the stigma associated with mental health issues.
Kennedy Hill is one of several members of the Kennedy family who have died young or under unusual circumstances, a phenomenon that has been dubbed the “Kennedy curse.” Her great uncle, President John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in 1963 at a Dallas motorcade; his son and Saoirse’s second cousin, John F. Kennedy Jr., died in a plane crash in 1999 at the age of 39. Kennedy Hill’s uncle David Anthony Kennedy was also found dead in a hotel room in 1984 after a struggle with drug and alcohol addiction, prompting Kennedy Hill to write an eerie message commemorating her uncle when she was just 16: “You were a kind, gentle spirit that went through unimaginable struggles in your life. It saddens me to know that we will never meet in this world, but I know I will see you up in heaven.”
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