Afghanistan War veteran and rising Democrat Jason Kander has dropped out of the Kansas City, Mo., mayoral race after revealing he has been struggling with PTSD.
In a note posted on his website Tuesday, Kander revealed that he has decided to seek help for mental health issues and will be taking a step back from politics for the time being. Kander served as an Army Intelligence Officer in Afghanistan during a four-month tour in 2006.
Kander said he contacted Veteran Affairs four months ago to seek help but could not admit to himself at the time that he could possibly have mental health issues, which he said included suicidal thoughts and depression. Kander said he avoided facing the truth about his PTSD because of the potential damage it could do to his political career.
“Instead of dealing with these issues, I’ve always tried to find a way around them,” Kander wrote. “Most recently, I thought that if I could come home and work for the city I love so much as its mayor, I could finally solve my problems. I thought if I focused exclusively on service to my neighbors in my hometown, that I could fill the hole inside of me. But it’s just getting worse.”
He said after running away from his PTSD for the last 11 years he is going to seek treatment at the VA in Kansas City.
“To allow me to concentrate on my mental health, I’ve decided that I will not be running for mayor of Kansas City,” he said. “I truly appreciate all the support so many people in Kansas City and across the country have shown me since I started this campaign. But I can’t work on myself and run a campaign the way I want to at the same time, so I’m choosing to work on my depression.”
The 37-year-old served as Missouri’s secretary of state from 2013 to 2017. Kander was deployed to Afghanistan in 2006 where he investigated groups and individuals suspected of corruption, espionage, drug trafficking and facilitating Al Qaeda and the Taliban as an intelligence officer, according to an online biography.
In 2016 he ran a tight race against GOP Senator Roy Blunt which he lost by a close margin but was slated to be a Democratic up and comer. His campaign ad in which he assembled a rifle garnered over 1.5 million views.
Kander said he decided to go public with his struggles in the hopes that it can help other veterans struggling.
“I decided to be public for two reasons: first, I think being honest will help me through this,” he said. “And second, I hope it helps veterans and everyone else across the country working through mental health issues realize that you don’t have to try to solve it on your own.”
He said he plans to return to politics once he addresses his issues.
“I’ll close by saying this isn’t goodbye,” Kander said. “Once I work through my mental health challenges, I fully intend to be working shoulder to shoulder with all of you again. But I’m passing my oar to you for a bit. I hope you’ll grab it and fight like hell to make this country the place we know it can be.”