‘I was scaring my children’: Fetterman talks mental health struggles, fears about his career

Sen. John Fetterman recently opened up to NBC News about his mental health struggles, at one point admitting that his antics had scared his children.

Flash back to December of 2022, right before his Senate swearing-in ceremony scheduled for Jan. 3rd. His depression was particularly bad at the time. So much so that it frightened his kids.

“People hear all their lives about ‘I can’t get out of bed,’ and you really can’t understand what that really means,” he recalled to NBC News. “You can’t get out of bed until it happens to you. And it did.”

“And I was scaring my children, and they were confused. And, of course, my wife was concerned, and I think she understands better than the kids did,” he added.

The good news is he eventually sought treatment this year from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington and was in fact released from an inpatient program as recently as March. Asked by NBC News how he’s doing now compared to then, he said “things are so much different.”

“The line [is] ‘I’m living my best life,’ and I really am, because I just am so grateful,” he said. “And I’m always talking about mental health, because I want everybody that can hear that is that help works, and you should get help.”

“And please, don’t suffer any longer, because you deserve to be better. And I’m so grateful to do that, and I’m paying it forward by talking about it,” he added.

For Fetterman, the troubles with depression reportedly started after he launched his campaign in 2021 and came under heavy loads of pressure and stress, which eventually culminated in him suffering a stroke in 2022.

“Fetterman, who is often seen using an instant transcription app on his phone while speaking to reporters, said having a ‘basic, simple conversation’ or participating in events such as interviews after the stroke became more challenging, causing his depression to ‘continue to grow and deepen,'” according to NBC News.

But after winning his Senate race, his depression “accelerated and got worse.”

“And I really scared my kids, and they thought: ‘You won, Dad. Why aren’t we enough? Why are you still so sad? Why are you even more sad?’” he recalled.

“And it was hard to explain why I was. And, of course, a 9-year-old child wouldn’t understand that. And it was awful, and that’s when it continued to get more and more intense,” he added.

He realized he needed treatment when thoughts of self-harm began to surface in his head.

“Asked how worried he was at the time about sharing what he was experiencing, Fetterman said he assumed that going public with the inpatient treatment ‘would be the end of my career,'” NBC News notes.

According to Fetterman, he was “walled off” while at Walter Reed, meaning no TV, Internet, or even contact with his family. But then when his children were finally allowed to visit him, he experienced a “watershed moment.”

“I was overwhelmed that they embraced me and they were so happy to see me,” he said. “It was like a breakthrough.”

“It just created a kind of environment that was blowing open, being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. And that gave me another reason to fully engage and to trust the process,” he added.

He reportedly then started engaging more with both his staff and his family and “slowly discovering that people have been supportive and that I do have a career to go back into.”

And then when his doctor at Walter Reed told him that his “depression is in remission,” it came as a complete shock to him.

“That was the second part of the one-two punch that really allowed me to fully just get together and realize that I do have a life to come back to,” he said.

And now, as a member of the Senate Mental Health Caucus, the senator hopes to “expand the awareness and embrace” of mental health difficulties.

“And I would say to the biggest skeptic in the world: ‘I was that person. Oh, it’s not going to work. It’s not going to change. This is how I’ve always been,'” he said. “But I was wrong. And it does work. And if it can work for me — because I was absolutely convinced that there is no coming back — then that means, I think, it would be applicable to 99% of people out there that could hear this.”

Vivek Saxena


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