How Sick is Fetterman?
There seem to be two sides to the issue of Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman’s health.
He is being highly praised for addressing his current health issue – chronic depression — with courage by seeking professional treatment. After all, chronic depression – like any mental disease – is not something to which folks like to admit publicly. It is a malady that people too often suffer in silence.
That side of the story is worth telling, but there is another side that is not being told. How sick is Fetterman?
I – like most folks – have had to deal with family and friends with serious depression. It is most extreme if it leads to ideations of suicide – or the tragic reality. My mother’s cousin and my own niece both took their own lives because of chronic depression. Another relative committed herself to a psychiatric facility. Mostly, however, they were treated as outpatients. In most cases, it meant a lifelong dependency on some form of medication and consultation.
In the vast majority of depression cases, the person suffers dramatic mood swings … inability to work or perform daily activities … self-defeating and self-destructive behavior.
According to the reports, Fetterman had sought medical advice from two doctors – the second of which recommended hospitalization. The Senator took his doctor’s advice and voluntarily admitted himself to treatment.
One question is … what would the doctor have done if Fetterman refused to be hospitalized. Depending on the diagnosis, the doctor could have had Fetterman committed to a psychiatric facility against his will. That generally involves patients who are determined to be imminent dangers to themselves or others. That is surprisingly more common than most folks know. In some cases, patients self-commit under the threat of being committed involuntarily. In most states, there is a maximum – usually three or four days – that a patient can be held against their will.
It is odd that in all the initial reporting I followed, there was no mention of the symptoms. Was he suicidal? That is one of the primary reasons for entering a psychiatric facility. Is Fetterman in a general medical ward or in a designated psychiatric facility – as is the common practice in these situations?
What stood out in the Fetterman case above all things was the statements by his staff that he would likely be hospitalized for weeks? That needs some explanation regarding his symptoms and conditions. In the many times I was personally involved with individuals suffering from depression – and a number of them were severe – there was never the need for long-term hospitalization. In most cases, they were treated as outpatients.
The press needs to ask more detailed questions and Fetterman needs to explain his symptoms in greater detail. Was he suicidal – a threat to himself or others? Did his condition lead to any acts of violence – such as tossing vases or smashing furniture? Was he totally incapable of performing his duties as a United States Senator? Was he showing up on the job?
This is no difference from when the seriousness of Fetterman’s stroke was downplayed for public consumption. Over time, it became obvious that it was more serious than initially revealed. They talked about a full recovery, but apparently, the debilities caused by the stroke have not ended. In fact, doctors commenting on his current situation are referring to the stroke as “serious” and even “very serious” – and a possible reason for the depression.
Because the questions are not being asked by the media – or the details being offered by Fetterman – we do not know the extent of Fetterman’s medical condition – and this commentary is not offering up any opinions on that subject. However, with that length of hospitalization, there can be no doubt that Fetterman’s condition is extremely serious – more serious than we are being led to believe. That is why he needs to give the public more than a general statement on his decision to enter a medical facility.
Yes, it is good for him to address his problem with depression directly and forthrightly. In view of his public office, however, the people have a right to know the details of his depression.
So, there ‘tis.