Fetterman Checks Out of Hospital After Treatment for Depression

WASHINGTON — Senator John Fetterman, Democrat of Pennsylvania, announced on Friday that he had checked out of Walter Reed Military Medical Center six weeks after having admitted himself to be treated for clinical depression, using the occasion to urge those suffering from mental health challenges to seek help.

Mr. Fetterman is set to return to the Senate on April 17, after a two-week holiday recess, according to his spokesman, who said that the senator planned to spend the time until then in Pennsylvania with his family and constituents. His office said that Dr. David Williamson, the neuropsychiatry chief and medical director at Walter Reed, had determined that Mr. Fetterman’s depression was now in remission.

“I am so happy to be home,” Mr. Fetterman said in a statement. “I’m excited to be the father and husband I want to be, and the senator Pennsylvania deserves.”

Mr. Fetterman, 53, whose decision to reveal his depression reflected a new openness among some public figures to talk about their mental health challenges, made a point of holding himself out as an example of the change that was possible with treatment. He thanked the medical team at Walter Reed, saying the care “changed my life,” and he promised he would say more about it soon.

“For now, I want everyone to know that depression is treatable, and treatment works,” he said. “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.”

In an interview with CBS “Sunday Morning” set to air this weekend, Mr. Fetterman spoke for the first time about the listlessness and hopelessness he experienced before checking in to the hospital.

“I had stopped leaving my bed,” he said. “I had stopped eating. I was dropping weight. I had stopped engaging some of the most — things that I love in my life.” He said that despite winning one of the most competitive Senate races in last year’s midterm elections, “depression can absolutely convince you that you actually lost.” So began what he described as “a downward spiral.”

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In his discharge briefing, provided by the senator’s office, Dr. Williamson wrote that Mr. Fetterman never had any suicidal ideation but suffered from “severe symptoms of depression with low energy and motivation, minimal speech, poor sleep, slowed thinking, slowed movement, feelings of guilt and worthlessness.”

Over the past six weeks, Mr. Fetterman participated in talk therapy, had his medications monitored by doctors and went on therapeutic walks in the facility’s healing garden. He read and dog-eared a copy of Dr. Raymond DePaulo’s “Understanding Depression.” His doctor noted that as the treatment proceeded, “sleep was restored, he ate well and hydrated, and he evidenced better mood, brighter affect and improved motivation, self-attitude and engagement with others.”

Mr. Fetterman and his top aides were set on not rushing his recovery. That was despite his political opponents’ raising questions about his health and his ability to serve in the Senate, given the length of his hospital stay and the lingering effects of a severe stroke he suffered last year that has left him with impairments that have made adjustments to his new job more challenging.

When Mr. Fetterman checked in to the hospital in February, the tulips in the garden had not sprouted. By the time he left after his extended stay, they had bloomed.

As a parting gift to the staff, Mr. Fetterman offered a bouquet of tulips, according to an aide who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe private details of his departure.

Mr. Fetterman’s office has been operating without him, with his chief of staff, Adam Jentleson, visiting the hospital every morning to meet with the senator and brief him on the work of the day.

On Thursday, Mr. Fetterman introduced his first bill, the Railway Accountability Act, which seeks to expand rail safety requirements after the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, in February.

Still, his office and his Democratic colleagues were eager for his return.

“No one in the Senate has seen him being himself,” Mr. Jentleson said in an interview earlier this month. “That person is going to be a force of nature as a senator.”

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