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Sen. John Fetterman on depression treatment: Care ‘changed my life’

John Fetterman Pennsylvania
Image courtesy fetterman.senate.gov

Pennsylvania U.S. Senator John Fetterman was released from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on March 31 after undergoing treatment for major depression. Fetterman had a stroke last year during his successful bid to the U.S. Senate.

Fetterman, a Democrat, is one of many high-profile individuals who have been very open about their battles with mental health.

According to his office, he had low energy and motivation, poor sleep and feelings of guilt and worthlessness, prior to his treatment. He did not have thoughts of suicide. Fetterman entered the neuropsychiatry medical unit at Walter Reed on Feb. 15.

Fetterman, 52, is one of 6 million men who suffer from depression – though many go undiagnosed often because they do not seek treatment.

“Depression is treatable, and treatment works,” Fetterman said in a statement after his release from Walter Reed. “This isn’t about politics — right now there are people who are suffering with depression in red counties and blue counties. If you need help, please get help.”

In a December interview with Augusta Free Press, mental health professional Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW, said many men don’t seek help due to fear and stigma. People, she said, worry that reaching out for help might make their friends and family think they are crazy or weak.

“There are theories about that that have to do with social norms around why men shouldn’t ask for help, why men shouldn’t express emotion. And not even men, but boys, boys shouldn’t cry,” Freedenthal said.

According to the American Psychological Association, 9 percent of men in the United States have daily feelings of depression. Only one in three of those men take medication because of those feelings, and one in four who reported these feelings spoke to a mental health professional.

Fetterman’s courageous admission of depression and his subsequent treatment defies the inclination by many men to pretend to be strong even when help is desperately needed. The APA reports that 30.6 percent of men have suffered from depression in their lifetime.

Fetterman isn’t your typical politician either – more comfortable in a sweatshirt than a suit and tie – and with tattoos and a football player’s physique.

According to doctors at Walter Reed, Fetterman’s depression is now in remission. He plans a return to the U.S. Senate when the session resumes on April 17. For now, Fetterman has returned to his home in Braddock with his wife, Gisele, and their three children.

“I am so happy to be home. I’m excited to be the father and husband I want to be, and the senator Pennsylvania deserves,” said Sen. Fetterman. “Pennsylvanians have always had my back, and I will always have theirs.”

Fetterman’s depression was managed with medication therapy.

With treatment, his office reported that Fetterman’s mood steadily improved, and his sleep was restored. According to his doctors, Fetterman “expressed a firm commitment to treatment over the long term.”

Walter Reed doctors said Fetterman will pursue outpatient treatment.

“I am extremely grateful to the incredible team at Walter Reed,” Fetterman said. “The care they provided changed my life.”

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Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.