Senator John Fetterman Discusses Mental Health Post Hospitalization
Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman is speaking publicly about his mental health after checking himself into a hospital for clinical depression earlier this month. In a tweet posted Monday, Fetterman’s chief of staff, Adam Jentleson, shared photos showing the 53-year-old Democrat hard at work on Senate-related issues and said he is “well on his way to recovery.”
After spending 6-weeks in Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for treatment for clinical depression, Fetterman has resumed some duties around the Capitol, according to his team. His chief of staff posted a photo on Twitter on Monday showing the senator working with his team on Senate-related issues, including rail safety legislation and the Farm Bill.
“I will be going home. It will be the first time ever to be in remission with my depression,” Fetterman recently told CBS News’ “Sunday Morning” anchor Jane Pauley on camera. “And I can’t wait to see what it really feels like, to take it all in, and to start making up any lost time.”
Doctors say post-stroke depression is common and often treatable, but it can be particularly difficult for people to discuss their struggles publicly. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle commended Fetterman for his transparency about his depression, and some experts said it could help to destigmatize mental health problems.
The stroke Fetterman suffered last May left him physically weak, unable to speak and with auditory processing disorder, making it difficult for him to process what he hears. He has used devices in conversations, meetings and congressional hearings that transcribe spoken words into text using closed captioning.
He had also recently lost a friend and aide to suicide, according to a statement from his office.
As the public learned about his struggles with mental health, it became clear that the Senator had not been receiving the care he needed. He also was not taking his prescribed medications for a heart condition, cardiomyopathy, which can lead to depression.
After his latest bout with depression, Fetterman checked himself into a hospital for inpatient treatment at the recommendation of his attending physician, Capitol Physician Brian P. Monahan, who recommended the stay at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
A spokesman for Fetterman said that while the senator had been experiencing depression off and on throughout his life, it only got worse in recent weeks. He was evaluated by Monahan, and was admitted on Wednesday night.
Despite his challenges, doctors said they hope Fetterman will be able to serve as effectively as possible while under treatment for depression.
They said he will need to take antidepressants and have counseling sessions, but the healing process is expected to be weeks-long.
Doctors say it can be hard for a stroke survivor to get back to normal after an episode because the effects of a stroke often affect every area of their lives. The impact on their ability to move limbs, talk or even eat can be debilitating and often make them feel isolated.
That is why many patients find it helpful to have a friend or loved one who can stay by their side while they recover. It can also help to have someone they trust to advocate for them if the hospital or doctors do not understand what is going on with them.
Some patients are able to return to work, but many require support for years. They may need medication, therapy and physical therapy to regain the strength they once had.