Speed Reads

mental health

Sen. John Fetterman receiving treatment for clinical depression

Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) is seeking treatment for clinical depression, at the recommendation of the attending physician of Congress.

The doctor, Brian P. Monahan, evaluated the senator on Monday and suggested inpatient care on Wednesday, Fetterman's chief of staff, Adam Jentleson, said in a statement released Thursday. Fetterman has "experienced depression off and on throughout his life," Jentleson added, and "it only became severe in recent weeks. After examining John, the doctors at Walter Reed [National Military Medical Center] told us that John is getting the care he needs, and will soon be back to himself."

Fetterman, 53, suffered a stroke last May, just a few days before winning the Democratic Senate primary. He defeated Republican Mehmet Oz in November, after speaking openly on the campaign trail about his recovery. Last week, Fetterman experienced lightheadedness during a retreat, and was hospitalized; his spokesman said doctors determined Fetterman did not have a second stroke.

James Jackson, director of the ICU Recovery Center at Vanderbilt Medical Center, told The Washington Post that studies show about 30 percent of people who survive life-threatening medical events and intensive care go on to have symptoms of depression, including sadness, fatigue, brain fog, increased social withdrawal, and reduced motivation and appetite. "It's not a situation you anticipated. It's not something you planned on. That's why it's so derailing," Jackson said. "There's an abruptness to it."

Experts say the risk of depression is likely greater in people who have suffered strokes, since there is an injury to the brain and they often lose physical mobility and auditory processing. "There are studies that show that compared to all other forms of depression, stroke-induced depression tends to be more severe," Joshua Gordon, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, told the Post.

Several lawmakers sent their well wishes to Fetterman after Thursday's announcement, and shared their own mental health experiences. Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) revealed that in 2010, he was hospitalized for depression. "I would not be alive, let alone in Congress, were it not for mental health care," Torres tweeted. "Millions of Americans are rooting for you, Senator."