John Fetterman: social media made battle with depression more difficult

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Social media made John Fetterman’s battle with mental depression last year even more difficult, the Democratic US senator from Pennsylvania said Sunday.

Fetterman said the comments on social media about him and his family played a role in the depression which sent him to a hospital for six weeks in February. “It’s an accelerant, absolutely,” he said.

The first-term senator added: “It’s just astonishing that so many people want to take the time to hop online and to say things to a stranger that never did anything to you – especially members of my family.”

Fetterman’s blunt remarks about his depression, the resulting hospitalization, and the effect of social media came during an exclusive interview with NBC’s Meet the Press that the news program aired Sunday.

In the pre-recorded conversation with Meet the Press host Kristen Welker, Fetterman said virtually everyone he knew advised him to stay off social media after he defeated Republican celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz for an open Senate seat in November of 2022.

Fetterman – once the mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania, and the ex-lieutenant governor of the state – triumphed despite vocal support for Oz from former president Donald Trump.

Victory for Fetterman helped give his party control of the Senate and cemented him as a rising star among leftists. And Fetterman, 54, said he subsequently “made the mistake to check … out” social media commentary several weeks after defeating Oz.

Fetterman said he felt how doing so palpably worsened the dread he experienced whenever he pondered being sworn in on 3 January 2023 – thoughts that accompanied a sudden weight loss and lack of physical energy to get out of bed at the time.

“It wasn’t the things said … but it was the volume, just the, like, where is this coming from?” Fetterman said Sunday. “And it’s like, is this [what it] would be the rest of my life? Look what it’s done to me, and more importantly what has this done for my family?”

Fetterman has previously said his depressive symptoms at the time prevented him from engaging in the usual banter or work discussions with his staff, and he began avoiding spending time with his wife, Gisele, and their three children.

Ultimately, on 15 February, which was his son’s 14th birthday, Fetterman admitted himself into the Walter Reed medical center for clinical depression treatment.

He remained there six weeks, which is longer than typical for inpatient treatment for depression. And the hospital stay also came after Fetterman suffered a stroke that he says nearly killed him during his Senate campaign. The earlier medical ordeal also required him to be hospitalized for a time, and Republicans pointed at the episode to argue that he was unfit for office.

Fetterman told Welker in Sunday’s interview that he feared his time in politics was all but over after his mental health hospitalization.

“I had assumed that would be the end of my career,” said Fetterman, who wore his usual uniform of a black hooded sweatshirt and matching shorts.

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