When Leaders Struggle: Senator John Fetterman’s Hospitalization for Depression Highlights the Importance of Mental Health Awareness

Founder, Mind Dojo

Seeing the news that Senator John Fetterman checked into the hospital for depression hits really close to home.

The Senator experienced a stroke last year during his senate run and last evening checked himself in to seek treatment for clinical depression. One third of stroke survivors experience depression. I would know, it happened to me.

Last year, when the Senator was recovering from his stroke, my mental health was going downhill. A secret I hid from most family and friends, until now.

The stigma surrounding mental health is not just the perception of others but internal. It feels embarrassing. I felt flawed, weak, and helpless. My self-esteem was in the gutter. I was ashamed. I was reluctant to seek help. I began to withdraw from family and friends. I isolated myself. I felt hopeless.

Senator Fetterman should be commended for his bravery to seek help. I was not so brave. I allowed my mental health to continue to deteriorate. My day job was about the only thing I was still doing well. My relationships were imploding both outside and inside my home as I attempted to hide my health. As I sheltered in my bed, my home was folding in on itself. My children were acting out. My wife was overwhelmed and gasping at the last pieces that were left of her shell of a husband.

I reached out to Gisele Barreto Fetterman as soon as I heard the news. If John has reached this stage in his mental health, I know Gisele and the kids are struggling as well. The breakdown of someone’s mental health has a severe impact on those who love them. Depression makes it difficult to engage with your partner. It crushes intimacy, increases conflict, breaks down communication, and makes it nearly impossible to fulfil your role as a husband and father. It is devasting when left untreated.

My self-isolation and feelings of worthlessness quickly reached a point of no return. I began to feel the only way to escape my suffering was to cease existing. As my behavior changed, so did my thoughts. I begin to question my purpose in life. I felt trapped. My mood began to become more and more erratic and quickly shifted between sad, angry, and anxious. I became preoccupied with death.

I found myself thinking of death and dying throughout the day. I felt disconnected from life. I struggled to find meaning in life. As I further withdrew from activities, I became preoccupied with death – When? How? Where? I was planning.

Ryan Lokay was begging me to get help all while I was lying to her and my therapist about what was just beneath the surface. I was circling the drain of eternity. My charade was beginning to crumble.

Unlike Senator Fetterman, I did not walk myself into treatment. I was running from treatment. I had to hit personal rock bottom before I agreed to seek treatment. I lost a lot, but thankfully I came out the other side. I know each day it can always sneak its way back into my life.

What’s next on my mental wellness journey?

Are you or someone one you love in need of medical and/or holistic treatment? Visit theMindDojo.com

If it is a true emergency reach out to Resolve Crisis or dial 911.

Foran, Clare, and Jessica Dean. “Fetterman Checked Himself into Hospital ‘to Receive Treatment for Clinical Depression,’ Office Says | CNN Politics.” CNN, Cable News Network, 16 Feb. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/02/16/politics/john-fetterman-depression-treatment/index.html?fbclid=IwAR3-yWDY_qQ3CO9tdgrx–8_MpHPUWch4yxESCbaIxlFz0BXx94LwwPr7FA.

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