In Gratitude to Sen. John Fetterman for Prompting Discussion About Depression

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

I am feeling generally awful over a personal thing, and so I find myself waking up in the middle of the night, in a semi-panic, and just needing to write.

So I write. Tonight, it is about John Fetterman — Senator John Fetterman and his widely-reported struggles.

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I was googling a minute ago and saw some stories about John Fetterman, the U.S. senator from Pennsylvania currently hospitalized at Walter Reed for depression. He has been very open about it, and I appreciate him for it. As we all should.

Related: Teen Girls Experiencing Record High Levels of Sadness and Hopelessness

I worked against Fetterman in his Senate race, actually — not for the idiotic Dr. Oz, but another candidate, a good guy who refused to use Fetterman’s struggles against him. Fetterman was unwell throughout the campaign, and we had marching orders not to discuss it. If we were going to win, we were going to win clean, and that has stuck with me. It was Reaganesque, actually. I worked for a good guy.

Anyway, I am very familiar with Fetterman’s struggles. I also deal with depression, so I empathize.

Senators are an interesting bunch. I worked for Jesse Helms, amongst others. Jesse’s best friend in the Senate was Joe Biden, by the way — not a subject either often felt like talking about. That’s another column for another day.

Senators are supposed to be flawless, but those who know them (like me) know they are quite the opposite. Nonetheless, that is the narrative. So for a senator to publicly check himself into a hospital for depression, of all things, is quite remarkable. Again, I struggle with depression and it is sometimes debilitating. And I’m not even a senator.

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By simply being real, Sen. John Fetterman is doing a great service for a lot of Americans who struggle. Americans like me.

Psychiatry.org defines depression like so:

Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease your ability to function at work and at home.

The fact that the subject of depression is somewhat taboo makes it worse. You see, we aren’t really allowed to talk about it, though we need to. It’s hard to explain to people why yesterday we blew up at them when we didn’t mean to. It results in a lot of broken relationships that we didn’t want or need to break. It’s just … a disease.

More from Psychiatry.org:

Depression affects an estimated one in 15 adults (6.7%) in any given year. And one in six people (16.6%) will experience depression at some time in their life. Depression can occur at any time, but on average, first appears during the late teens to mid-20s. Women are more likely than men to experience depression. Some studies show that one-third of women will experience a major depressive episode in their lifetime. There is a high degree of heritability (approximately 40%) when first-degree relatives (parents/children/siblings) have depression.

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I don’t know if Fetterman has a family history, and it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that depression is real and we need to be more open about it. Sitting in a hospital bed, Sen. Fetterman is sparking that dialogue. Let’s all wish him well, and let’s take a lesson from the situation and not be shy when it comes to depression. It’s important.

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