What’s Being Said About Senator John Fetterman’s Self-Hospitalization?

John Karl Fetterman, newly-elected junior United States senator of Pennsylvania (PA), has drawn praise for advocating for criminal justice reform, raising the federal minimum wage, advocating for LGBTQ rights and protection, and more. His political background includes serving as Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor from 2018-2022 and as the mayor of Braddock, PA, preceding that. Most recently, he’s drawn attention for something entirely separate from his politics.

On February 15, 2023, Sen. Fetterman checked into the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, to address his worsening depression. According to Stephen Neukam at The Hill, employees at Fetterman’s office expressed concern that his symptoms were heightening. Extreme health issues, stress, and public focus exacerbated Fetterman’s depression.

It is important to note that in May of 2022, while campaigning for his Senate seat, Fetterman suffered a severe stroke. The stroke has had lasting effects on both his physical and mental well-being. At his desk in the Senate chamber, a monitor provides closed captioning of proceedings so that he may follow them, accounting for the auditory processing issues caused by his stroke, according to TIME. Additionally, the mental impact of his stroke worsened his pre-existing depression. The American Stroke Association states that post-stroke depression is common and can be severe; doctors say this can be further aggravated by coping with the aftermath of such a health scare in the public eye.

While campaigning, Fetterman was endorsed by several prominent politicians, including President Joe Biden, Sen. Bob Casey, and U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean. Throughout his current and public battle against depression, support for Fetterman has not wavered. Many believe that, while it is difficult, Fetterman is setting an example that serves as a way to bring the importance of mental health treatment to light.

Patrick Kennedy (D, RI), a former congressman who has also struggled with his mental health while in office, declared, “This is a moment for us to tear down the stigma of depression and anxiety. Sen. Fetterman may do more for people just by admitting that he’s getting help for depression than any bill he ends up sponsoring.”

Additionally, Vivek Murthy, the United States Surgeon General, supported Fetterman in a tweet, reading in part, “Asking for help is important, but it’s not always easy. I hope Senator Fetterman’s courage will serve as an example for others.”

Many have been vocal in their support of Fetterman. As reported by AP News, John Thune, Republic senator of South Dakota, believes that the world will benefit from “politicians [becoming] more comfortable discussing [mental health post] pandemic.” Thune also said that the more open people are, the better our understanding of these concealed but widespread issues can be.

Governor Josh Shapiro (PA) says that he has not received any pressure regarding resignation from Fetterman, saying that if the conversation did arise, he’d “dismiss it immediately.” Gov. Shapiro has firmly maintained confidence in Sen. Fetterman, saying, in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, “He’s going to get the help that he needs … and do a great job for the people of Pennsylvania as their senator for a long time.”