(WPRI) - Patrick Kennedy continues his campaign for support for brain research -- with empathy for the suspect in a serious case of violence: Jared Loughner, the man accused of shooting Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killing six others in a rampage earlier this year.
Kennedy, the former Rhode Island representative who stepped down last year, wants to eradicate the stigma attached to mental health disorders.
In an interview that aired this weekend on CNN -- an hour-long program called "Patrick Kennedy, Coming Clean" -- he told the news channel's Dr. Sanjay Gupta people with mental problems have been ignored for too long. He implied he has sympathy for Loughner.
"It's an irony, but we think no stigma towards Gabby and her brain injury, but he has a brain injury as well, because clearly his brain was not working properly when he picked up that gun and shot all those people," he told Gupta.
Kennedy himself has struggled with substance abuse for more than 25 years. A year ago, he told reporters "Some days, you're more successful than others," in response to reports he was drinking at a bar -- and "cut off" by the bartender.
In the CNN interview, he said mental instabilities are often dismissed -- or written off -- by the public.
"There is that sense like, 'Jared Loughner out in Arizona... He's crazy.' They look the other way. Not thinking that this is someone who is sick and needs healthcare. Instead, because we look the other way, and he goes untreated, he shoots and kills people -- including a good friend of mine, Gabby Giffords."
Eyewitness News wanted to ask Kennedy more about his statements. While he no longer has an official spokesperson, we put several phone calls into a former Kennedy chief of staff, who remains a family friend. As of 6:00 Monday night, our calls had not been returned.
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