Sen. Fetterman opens up about 'downward spiral' before receiving treatment for depression

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Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman opened up about his struggle with depression during a candid interview with CBS News that was taped during his stay at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

“I had stopped leaving my bed. I had stopped eating. I was dropping weight. I had stopped engaging … most things that I love in my life,” Fetterman told CBS’ Jane Pauley.

The Pennsylvania Democrat said he had never attempted to harm himself but that he was “indifferent” about his life. “If the doctor said, ‘Gee, you have 18 months to live,’ I’d be like, ‘Yeah. OK, well, that’s how things go,’” he said.

Fetterman, whose win helped cement Democrats’ 51-49 Senate majority last fall, was discharged last week from Walter Reed, where he had been treated for his depression.

He had suffered a stroke last year during the days ahead of the primary. When he returned to the campaign trail, Fetterman often struggled to communicate with lingering auditory processing issues, relying on assistance through devices with closed captioning to converse and answer questions.

The same auditory processing issues impacted him in his early days in the Senate. And when he struggled with substantial weight loss and a loss of appetite, he was diagnosed with clinical depression, and later was admitted to Walter Reed for treatment.

“I was at a Democratic retreat, and many of my colleagues were coming up to me and asking, ‘Why aren’t you eating?’” Fetterman recalled during the interview.

But following his discharge from Walter Reed, Fetterman said in a statement, “I want everyone to know that depression is treatable, and treatment works.”

“This isn’t about politics — right now there are people who are suffering with depression in red counties and blue counties. If you need help, please get help,” he said.

Fetterman is expected to return to the Senate the week of April 17, but he told CBS that his immediate plans include taking his son “to the restaurant that we were supposed to go (to) during his birthday but couldn’t because I had checked myself in for depression.”

“And being the kind of dad, the kind of husband, the kind of senator that Pennsylvania truly deserves.”

Editor’s note: If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or mental health matters, please call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, or visit the hotline’s website.