Mary Richardson Kennedy's Death Attributed to Hanging, Psychologists See Signs in Recent Past

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"Very often at the root of a person's substance abuse problems is a depressive illness that comes out in some way with the family," said Dr. Paul McHugh, a professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medical Institution. "But it's tougher to say if the environment, the stress in family was provoking the depression, or the depression was provoking the trouble."

Kennedy family members have described Mary Richardson Kennedy as "kind, loving, gentle and generous," according to a 2010 story in the Associated Press. On Wednesday, the Kennedy family said in a statement that her "radiant and creative spirit will be sorely missed by those who loved her."

Dr. Nadine Kaslow, a professor and chief psychologist at the Emory University School of Medicine, said the Kennedy family would benefit by uniting and comforting one another in the wake of the suicide, particularly for the sake of couple's children, who range in age from 10 to 17.

"Suicide is one of the hardest deaths for a family to deal with," Kaslow said. "It brings up all sorts of issues like who's to blame, sadness, anger and guilt. It's often tougher for families to stick together after a suicide, but it's also very important to be able to do so."

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