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Sen. John Fetterman opens up about his mental health following hospital stint for depression

The freshman Pennsylvania senator, now back at work, spent over six weeks in the hospital being treated for severe depression

U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) walks through the Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol
Beatriz Colon
Beatriz Colon - New York
New York WriterNew York
19 April 2023
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In February, just one month after being sworn in as a first-time senator of Pennsylvania – flipping one of the states' seats blue when he beat Mehmet OzJohn Fetterman checked himself in for what would become a 44-day stay in Walter Reed Medical Center's neuropsychiatry unit to treat his severe depression, and he didn't hide it.

It was reminiscent of May 2022 when, while on the campaign trail, he suffered from a stroke days before the primary. Though he risked his nascent political career  in the process, he shared the news with his supporters with a tweet from the hospital.

Though he has had to face off concerns over his ability to serve, and ableist attacks from his former opponent and his GOP supporters, he has also received praise from his supporters and beyond for his transparency when it comes to his mental health.

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Now out of the hospital and back to work, in a new interview with People, the freshman PA senator, 53, is maintaining the same transparency as he opens up about his road to recovery.

Sitting next to his wife, Gisele Barreto Fetterman, from their Braddock, PA home, he recalled: "I always treated my depression like I did with losing my hair," adding: ""It's just kind of like, 'Oh yeah, that's just part of my makeup.'"

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He noted: "I never thought that it was significant enough to go get help," though he said: "And I, of course, regret that I did not do that."

U.S. Senator John Fetterman (D-PA) and his wife, Gisele Barreto Fetterman, stand during the singing of the National Anthem before Josh Shapiro is sworn in as Governor of Pennsylvania© Getty
The senator and his wife Gisele at Josh Shapiro's swearing in as Pennsylvania Governor

Though known for his lighthearted – and instantly viral – approach at campaigning, Fetterman admitted that it was hard to fend off the cruelty behind his opponent and his followers' attacks when things started "getting really, really ugly." On multiple occasions, for instance, Oz supporters called him a "vegetable." 

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Perhaps surprisingly, it was after he won the election and secured his senate seat that his mental health plummeted. "I literally stopped eating and drinking and I wasn't functional," he said, adding: "My depression was in full force." Though he said he did not think about self-harm, he admitted: "I was firmly indifferent to living."

Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) chairs a Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry subcommittee© Getty
Fetterman chaired his first subcommittee on April 19 following his return to work

After checking himself into the hospital February 16th, on his eldest son's 14th birthday, Fetterman spent over six weeks "undergoing daily talk therapy, testing out different medications, exercising and learning to understand what was happening in his brain."

"When I first checked in, I never thought I would be where I'm at here," he recalled, though now he proudly says: "One of the happiest days of my life was when [my doctor] said to me in one of the sessions, 'I believe that your depression is in remission.'"

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741741 or go to

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