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John Fetterman Checked Himself Into the Hospital for Clinical Depression. What We Know So Far

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Updated: | Originally published:

Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman has checked himself into the hospital to receive treatment for clinical depression.

In a statement, Fetterman’s chief of staff Adam Jentleson said: “While John has experienced depression off and on throughout his life, it only became severe in recent weeks.”

Fetterman was evaluated on Monday by the attending physician for Congress, who recommended on Wednesday that the senator receive inpatient care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the statement said.

The senator checked himself into the hospital Wednesday night.

“After examining John, the doctors at Walter Reed told us that John is getting the care he needs, and will soon be back to himself.”

Fetterman’s stroke and other health challenges

Fetterman checked himself into a different hospital Feb. 8 after experiencing light-headedness, a visit which received particular scrutiny because Fetterman survived a stroke last May. Doctors at the hospital last week ruled out the possibility of another stroke.

Experts who spoke to TIME suggested that lightheadedness is a common symptom that could be connected to the Senator’s chronic heart issues or to numerous other manageable causes.

Fetterman was released from the hospital on Friday and returned to the Senate on Monday.

The Senator’s stroke last May left him with auditory processing issues that sometimes make it difficult for him to understand speech. During his first few weeks in Congress, the Senate Sergeant at Arms furnished him with new closed-captioning technology to help him manage those difficulties, the details of which were first reported by TIME.

The senator has spoken little to reporters as his office determines the best way for him to take questions. He could be seen briefly using an electronic tablet while attending President Biden’s State of the Union speech last Tuesday night. The New York Times reported last week that Fetterman’s stroke left him with “serious mental health challenges that have rendered the transition extraordinarily challenging.”

Fetterman on mental health care

Fetterman has spoken in the past about the need to bolster the mental health support provided to Pennsylvanians, including in 2017, soon after he declared his ultimately successful candidacy for Lieutenant Governor. That November, he spoke at Erie’s Mental Health Association, saying, “I came here because mental-health services are so critical for people all over the commonwealth and, in my opinion, they aren’t always the kind of priority they should be.”

Few politicians speak openly about their own mental health struggles. In fact, Senator Thomas Eagleton, who was briefly Democrats’ 1972 Vice Presidential nominee, withdrew from the ticket after news broke that he had received electroshock therapy for clinical depression.

According to the American Stroke Association, depression is common among stroke survivors. General rates of depression have spiked during the pandemic as well. A letter released by Fetterman’s doctor in October following the stroke confirmed that he could perform his duties as senator as he continued to recover.

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