Democratic Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman revealed that he believed his political career would end when he checked into the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for depression treatment.
“Well, when – when it got released where I was and where it was going, it was – it was a big story,” Fetterman said in a segment aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And so, I had assumed that that would be the end of my career. And I don’t know what that – what kind of impact that would have on my family or anything, so I – I really didn’t know what would happen at that point.”
NBC’s Kristen Welker had asked the Pennsylvania Democrat if he worried about speaking openly and honestly to the public about his mental health and depression struggles, especially last February when news spread he had checked into Walter Reed.
“And it would be my goal to … if somebody could hear this kind of a message and this conversation that we’re having might make a different choice,” Fetterman told Welker. “And that’s why – I’m sure I never thought at any point in my life that it would be a career boon to talk about these kinds of topics.”
“But I – I wanted to be fully honest and to let everybody – if they’re being honest about themselves, if they’re living in a blue county or a red county, either it’s themselves, or they know somebody or love somebody that struggle from this kind of an issue,” he continued.
Fetterman checked into Walter Reed in February for six weeks of depression treatment. He told Welker that he had “dark conversations” with himself about self-harm, which prompted him to seek treatment, and hit a “very dark” time in December of 2022 when he couldn’t get out of bed.
“People hear all their lives about ‘I can’t get out of bed,’ and you really can’t understand what that really means. You can’t get out of bed until it happens to you. And it did,” he told Welker of December 2022, which occurred just ahead of his swearing-in ceremony.
“And I was scaring my children, and they were confused,” he added. “And, of course, my wife was concerned, and I think she understands better than the kids did.”
Fetterman serves on the bipartisan Senate Mental Health Caucus, where he said he hopes to “expand the awareness” surrounding mental health struggles and tear down the stigma surrounding seeking help for depression and mental health.
“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.”
Nearly a year after checking into Walter Reed, Fetterman said he will continue speaking out about mental health to help others facing similar health issues.
“It’s a risk that I wanted to take because I wanted to help people and know that I don’t want them to suffer the way — or put any kinds of despair that I’ve been in. And if that conversation helps, then that’s — I’m going to continue to do that,” the Pennsylvania Democrat said.