After a whirlwind year, John Fetterman is back in the Senate
Who is he? John Fetterman is a recently elected Democratic Senator representing Pennsylvania. Though his election victory against TV personality Mehmet Oz was the subject of national attention, Fetterman's own health problems have been at the forefront of his tenure so far.
“It’s good to be back.” Senator John Fetterman returned to Congress this afternoon following six weeks of treatment for depression at National Military Medical Center. pic.twitter.com/ZPN1uDoP21— Jackie (@JacquelineKalil) April 17, 2023
What's the big deal? Fetterman's public acknowledgement of his own mental health struggles is rare for politicians, even as depression has become an increasingly common challenge for Americans.
For a more in-depth exploration, Listen to Consider This dive into how to talk about politicians and mental health.
What are people saying? Fetterman spoke with NPR's Scott Detrow in his first interview upon his return to the Senate floor.
On his return to the Senate:
It was just a big smile. I've really missed being here. And when I was in the throes of depression, if I was being 100% honest, I was not the kind of Senator that was deserved by Pennsylvanians. I wasn't the kind of partner that I owe to my wife, Gisele, or to my children, Karl, Grace, and August.
So to now, [hearing] one of the best sentences that I ever heard in my life was my doctors just sitting when we were in a meeting, and they said,
'John, we believe your depression is in remission.' And at first I didn't believe that.... and I was just blown away. And, now, my depression is in remission. And that's why coming back home and coming back to the Senate, and to coming back to being in the gym, being a member of the general public, has been a joy.
On the extent of his struggle with depression:
I was so depressed that I didn't even realize I was depressed. I didn't even understand it. This, to me, just became the new normal. I wasn't realizing [that] I wasn't eating. I didn't realize that I wasn't really drinking much.
I dropped 25 pounds. And sometimes I would say things, incoherent things and I would become kind of just [disoriented], and getting lost walking around in Washington.
And then finally, when it was all decided that I needed to take this option that was provided to me. I realized that I knew something was wrong. They knew that I wasn't right. But even at that moment, I still kind of pushed back about it too, sometimes saying 'Are you sure, I don't really need it.' Because then when it really comes to that choice, I'm gonna walk in here and sign myself in, I thought for a second 'oh my god no, no, wait a minute. I'm fine. I - never mind I got this.'
On creating a platform to discuss mental health:
I'm honored to have the ability to try to pay it forward, because I was blessed in my opportunities. I want to say the kinds of things that I would have heard years ago that got me into action. And I would tell anybody listening to this interview, if you suffer from depression, or you have a loved one, please let them know that you don't need to just suffer with that depression. Get treatment, and get help. If I'd had done that years ago, I would not have had to put my family and myself and my colleagues [through] that if I had gotten help.
So if you suffer from it, you have an opportunity to get rid of it. And I didn't believe it. But right now I'm the guy that didn't believe that I could get rid of my depression. And now I did.
So, what now?
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