Senate Democrats on Thursday instantly rallied around Sen. John Fetterman (Pa.) after his office announced he checked himself into a Washington-area hospital to be treated for clinical depression.
“Happy to hear @SenFettermanPA is getting the help he needs and deserves. Millions of Americans, like John, struggle with depression each day,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wrote on Twitter. “I am looking forward to seeing him return to the Senate soon.”
“I stand by John Fetterman and his family,” Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) told The Hill. “This a challenge, an unimaginable challenge, that he has faced in life. He deserves the very best in professional care and I’m sure he’ll get it at Walter Reed.”
Asked if Fetterman will be able to serve a full term, Durbin said, “I believe he can.”
“I believe with the proper care, which he will receive, that he’ll be back in our ranks, joining us soon,” he said.
Fetterman’s Thursday announcement that he had voluntarily checked into Walter Reed National Military Medical Center made him among the first sitting members of the Senate to reveal receiving treatment for depression.
According to his office, the senator “has experienced depression off and on throughout his life,” adding that it “only became severe in recent weeks.”
Adam Jentleson, Fetterman’s chief of staff, added doctors at Walter Reed “told us that John is getting the care he needs, and will soon be back to himself.”
While lawmakers have historically been leery about disclosing mental health struggles, the tide is beginning to shift in Congress. Outside the Capitol, increasing numbers of athletes, entertainers and everyday Americans have opened up about their own mental health.
Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.), who has been open about her bout with depression dating back decades, said Fetterman “is doing exactly what he should do, which is seek help.”
“Seeking help when you need it is a sign of strength, not weakness, something that John is demonstrating for all of us,” Smith wrote on Twitter.
Durbin said depression has become more recognized and accepted as something that many Americans struggle to live with.
“There was a time when no one ever mentioned the word. Mental illness was considered a curse, not a medical problem. Thank God that’s changed,” the Illinois Democrat said.
Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), who is on the mend following prostate cancer surgery on Tuesday, also sent his best wishes to his Keystone State colleague.
“Millions of Americans struggle with their mental health. I am proud of @SenFettermanPA for getting the help he needs and for publicly acknowledging his challenges to break down the stigma for others,” Casey wrote on Twitter, sending his prayers to Fetterman’s family.
On the other side of the aisle, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tweeted he and his wife “are lifting John up in prayer. Mental illness is real & serious, and I hope that he gets the care he needs.”
“Regardless of which side of the political aisle you’re on, please respect his family’s request for privacy,” Cruz added.
And Democrats across the Capitol also chimed in.
Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) tweeted that “There is never any weakness in seeking help,” while Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said, “Proud he is being open about his struggle with depression and hoping it encourages others to seek help who need it. Stay strong, John. We are with you.”
After Fetterman suffered a stroke in the days before Pennsylvania’s Democratic primary and visibly struggled with auditory processing leading up to the general election, some questioned his fitness for office. But after he faltered in the campaign’s only debate, some Democratic voters said his health struggles made him relatable.
He continues to deal with auditory processing issues that has forced him to rely on closed captioning in order to converse with other lawmakers and individuals.
Fetterman underwent surgery to implant a pacemaker shortly after his stroke, and he was hospitalized when he became lightheaded following the Senate Democratic retreat on Feb. 8. He was released from a Washington, D.C., hospital two days later.
According to a Fetterman spokesman, test results last week showed no evidence that he had suffered a seizure. Additional tests also showed that he did not suffer a second stroke in less than a year.
He was released from the Washington, D.C., hospital the following day and returned to the Senate on Monday.
Alexander Bolton contributed.