On Friday, a senior aide to the Pennsylvania Democrat gave NBC News new details about Fetterman’s condition, after his office announced Thursday that he had checked into the Bethesda-based hospital for impatient treatment after his depression had become ‘severe.’
Fetterman suffered a stroke in May and his sensory problems and issues with communication have been well documented since he was sworn-in as a senator in January.
A senior aide told NBC that it’s been difficult to differentiate between the senator’s stroke recovery and the depression, with the staffer saying it’s sometimes unclear if he’s ‘not hearing you, or is he sort of crippled by his depression and social anxiety.’
The aide added that the staff and Fetterman himself were surprised by the severe onset of the depression.
However, the aide added that this hasn’t compromised Fetterman’s ability to do the job going forward and the senator plans to be back at work.
The new details came as both Democrats and Republicans praised Fetterman for his bravery in being transparent about his mental health struggles.
Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman will likely be at Walter Reed and receiving care for clinical depression for a ‘few weeks’
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, whose family has had their own mental health struggles, said he and his wife Heidi were ‘lifting John up in prayer’
Rep. Ritchie Torres, a New York Democrat, commiserated with Fetterman and shared that he had a similar experience
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, whose family has had their own mental health struggles, said he and his wife Heidi were ‘lifting John up in prayer.’
‘Mental illness is real & serious, and I hope that he gets the care he needs. Regardless of which side of the political aisle you’re on, please respect his family’s request for privacy,’ Cruz asked.
Rep. Ritchie Torres, a New York Democrat, commiserated with Fetterman and shared that he had a similar experience.
‘I admire Senator John Fetterman for openly seeking treatment for depression at Walter Reed,’ Torres tweeted Thursday. ‘Back in 2010, I was hospitalized for depression. I would not be alive, let alone in Congress, were it not for mental health care. Millions of Americans are rooting for you, Senator.’
Minnesota Demoratic Sen. Tina Smith spoke on the Senate floor in 2019 about her own battle with depression as she pushed legislation that would expand mental healthcare services.
She applauded his move to be forthright about his condition.
‘In the short time I’ve worked with John Fetterman, I’ve been struck by his resilience and heart. John is doing exactly what he should do, which is seek help. Seeking help when you need it is a sign of strength, not weakness, something that John is demonstrating for all of us,’ Smith tweeted.
Rick Wilson, a former Republican and co-founder of the anti-Trump group the Lincoln Project, said he feared that Fetterman would be attacked by those politically aligned with the ex-president.
‘I’ve lost too many friends to depression in my life. It takes guts for Fetterman to admit he needs help in the public eye, knowing the hideous mockery that will come to him from the Maga world. Better people will salute this courage,’ Wilson tweeted Thursday.
Tennessee Republican Rep. Tim Burchett asked for prayers for Fetterman.
‘This town is cruel and unforgiving,’ he said. ‘He needs our prayers and support.’
Fetterman’s Chief of Staff Adam Jentleson said Thursday that the senator ‘has experienced depression off and on throughout his life’, but ultimately decided to seek treatment when he was examined by Dr. Brian Monahan, the Attending Physician of the United States Congress.
‘John is getting the care he needs, and will soon be back to himself,’ Jentleson added, brushing off concerns his health could impact his political future.
Last week Fetterman was hospitalized at George Washington University Hospital after feeling light-headed at a Democratic retreat and was held for two nights for observation.
Minnesota Demoratic Sen. Tina Smith spoke on the Senate floor in 2019 about her own battle with depression as she pushed legislation that would expand mental healthcare services. She sent out a tweet commending Fettermand on Thursday
John Fetterman (left) walks with his wife Gisele (right) as they exit their polling place on election day in November. Fetterman beat the Trump-backed Dr. Mehmet Oz in the pivotal Pennsylvania Senate race, earning Democrats an additional seat
Gisele Barreto Fetterman, the wife of the Pennsylvania senator, sent tweets of support after John Fetterman voluntarily checked into Walter Reed for depression earlier this week.
The senator’s wife Gisele called it a ‘difficult time for our family’ and asked for privacy, while sharing the news that her husband had checked into Walter Reed to be treated for severe depression
Doctors said he didn’t suffer a second stroke.
Fetterman was seen earlier this week on Capitol Hill and participated in an intelligence briefing on the recently downed aerial objects.
The New York Times reported last week that the Democrat has struggled to adjust to life as a senator.
Fetterman refused an interview with the paper, but aides and allies said the already difficult transition to the Senate was made ‘vastly more difficult by the strains of his recovery,’ noting that it left him with ‘a physical impairment and serious mental health challenges.’
He still suffers from auditory processing issues, which means he has to use devices that provide him with closed captioning to engage with his Senate colleagues and constituents and participate in committee hearings.
When people talk to Fetterman, he hears something akin to how the adults in the Peanuts’ cartoons sound: squawking provided by a muted trombone, The Times reported.
Besides the hearing issue – which is exacerbated when Fetterman is feeling stressed – the Times reported that the stroke recovery had put a ‘very real psychological toll’ on the politician.
Up to a third of stroke sufferers develop depression symptoms, according to the Stroke Association.
Sen. John Fetterman was spotted on Capitol Hill Tuesday after last week’s hospitalization at GW after feeling light-headed
Sen. John Fetterman (left) and his wife Gisele (right) at the Pennsylvania capitol for the swearing-in of Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro in January
Sen. John Fetterman poses with his family and Vice President Kamala Harris during his ceremonial swearing-in on January 3
Fetterman’s political brand was somewhat tied to his unconventional tough guy looks – standing at 6-foot-8, with tattooed arms, a shaved head and a goatee – the former Braddock, Pennsylvania mayor looked like he came straight from a Pittsburgh steel mill.
However, as The Times put it, the stroke turned him into a ‘physically altered version of himself’ and the senator has been ‘frustrated’ he hasn’t yet fully recovered.
Additionally, Fetterman was reportedly concerned that may have permanently set himself back, as he didn’t take off enough time during the campaign to rest.
‘What you’re supposed to do to recover from this is do as little as possible,’ Jentleson had told the paper. Instead, Fetterman ‘was forced to do as much as possible – he had to get back to the campaign trail. It’s hard to claw that back.’
Allies of his Republican Senate rival, Dr. Mehmet Oz, were questioning his mental capacity as Fetterman stayed sidelined and out of public view for most of the summer.
Then-Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is pictured on election night after beating the Trump-backed Republican, Dr. Mehmet Oz, in what was likely the nation’s most-watched Senate race
Sen. John Fetterman arrives at the House chamber last Tuesday to listen to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address
Sen. John Fetterman is captured riding on the Senate subway between the Capitol and Senate office buildings in late January
‘If John Fetterman were elected to the Senate and he’s not able to communicate effectively, if he’s not able to engage with the press, if he’s not able to engage with his colleagues, he would not be able to do the job,’ said Pennsylvania’s retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey in September.
‘It’s just not possible to be an effective senator if you cannot communicate. It’s just the essence of the job,’ Toomey added, pressing Fetterman to debate Oz .
Fetterman did debate Oz in late October, with his rocky performance leaving even Democrats rattled.
Fetterman’s speech was jumbled and he had to use closed captioning technology to understand the moderators and Oz’s responses.
Still, Fetterman beat the Trump-backed Oz by five percentage points, giving Democrats an extra Senate seat in what was likely the most-watched 2022 Senate race.
On Thursday, Fetterman’s wife Gisele called it a ‘difficult time for our family’ and asked for privacy, while sharing the statement from her husband’s Senate office saying he was seeking treatment for his mental health.
‘After what he’s been through in the past year, there’s probably no one who wanted to talk about his own health less than John. I’m so proud of him for asking for help and getting the care he needs,’ Gisele Fetterman also said.
‘Take care of yourselves. Hold your loved ones close, you are not alone,’ she said.