No matter what side of the political spectrum you land, it’s fair to say most Americans are tired of political fundraising emails.
But, of course, we’re always happy to see those emails do a bit more good.
When John Fetterman — the Democratic Senator of Pennsylvania — voluntarily checked into Walter Reed Medical Center to receive in-patient care for clinical depression last week, his team quickly worked to build support instead of shame.
Fetterman suffered a stroke near the end of his campaign in May 2022, and while post-stroke depression is common in about one-third of patients, Fetterman’s chief of staff, Adam Jentleson, shared in a statement that the senator has experienced depression on and off throughout his life.
He certainly isn’t alone. And he and his office are making sure others have the same kind of access to care.
Following the news of his hospitalization, Fetterman’s email subscriber list received a memo asking for donations — not for his campaign, but for two mental health nonprofits.
“Millions of people struggle with depression every day, and too often, people don’t reach out for help. Seniors, veterans, and millions of people who face the stigma that comes with addressing our mental health can go years without getting needed mental health care,” the email reads. “We’re glad John is setting an example for all of us and we hope that his bravery will encourage people around the country who need help to seek it, too.”
Then, supporters are encouraged to click a link that would split their donation between the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers’ Association. 100% of donations will go directly to these two organizations.
In 2021 and 2022, Fetterman raised more money than almost any other campaign for U.S. Senate, which means his email list size is likely among the largest of Democratic senators. Email sends are usually optimized for campaign fundraising and the choice to use it to fundraise for an outside organization is uncommon.
How is John Fetterman’s transparency about mental health good news?
Aside from mobilizing a huge supporter base to support mental health organizations, the news about Fetterman’s mental health is transformational in a number of ways.
Those who have lived with mental health conditions for years know that a story like this would have been unheard of just a few years ago. As a prominent political figure — someone who objectively has a lot of power and influence — openly disclosing this experience, Fetterman is doing a service for himself, while also extending his service for the American people.
“When somebody like Sen. Fetterman is transparent about having a clinical mental health condition and about getting inpatient treatment, it’s hugely powerful,” Pooja Lakshmin, a psychiatrist and clinical assistant professor at George Washington University School of Medicine told Vox.
“Talking about it really helps. When you see something like this in the news, it gives folks permission to share that story with a friend, to bring it up in a text chat.”
And it’s not just powerful for the general public. Fetterman’s transparency has also encouraged other lawmakers to speak out.
Michigan state representative Noah Arbit tweeted about his experiences with anxiety, depression, and ADHD, calling Fetterman’s press release “as profoundly impactful as any bill a U.S. Senator could introduce.”
Minnesota Senator Tina Smith also opened up online: “Seeking help when you need it is a sign of strength, not weakness, something that John is demonstrating for all of us,” she tweeted.
President Joe Biden himself even praised Fetterman’s agency in seeking care, and Pennsylvania Congresswoman Susan Wild — who lost her partner to suicide in 2019 — emphasized how this experience in no way impacts Fetterman’s legitimacy as a lawmaker.
“Rather than not being able to serve the people of Pennsylvania, I would contend that there are Pennsylvanians and Americans everywhere who feel less stigmatized, less of an odd-man out and recognize that they too share a disease and illness that many other people have,” Wild told CBS News. “I would actually argue it makes him more able to relate to Pennsylvanians, to his constituents.”
Although it’s important to embrace and reflect on the impact of the senator’s choice in seeking support, many Americans also simply hope that he receives the time and care he needs — not just to serve others — but to heal and thrive with his family.
“After what he’s been through in the past year, there’s probably no one who wanted to talk about his own health less than John,” Fetterman’s wife, Gisele Barreto Fetterman tweeted. “I’m so proud of him for asking for help and getting the care he needs.”
What are some ways I can take care of my own mental health?
At Good Good Good, we know that news like this can bring up some big feelings and lead us to get more curious about our own mental health care. We’ve created resources to remind readers that everything is going to be okay. Check them out:
Have access to mental health resources on hand.
If you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health crisis, or just needs some additional support, first check out this list of mental health resources to always have at the ready.
Find a therapist that’s right for you.
Mental health care (and all healthcare) can be incredibly inaccessible for many. And even if it’s accessible to you, it may be hard to find the right provider.
Check out this comprehensive guide to finding a therapist to get started.
Read good news about mental health.
Fetterman isn’t the only advocate in this space. In fact, there are so many amazing leaders who are passionate about mental health. As we always like to remind folks: Look for the helpers.
Check out some phenomenal mental health activists to lift your spirits and find community in all the big, scary feelings.
Practice proactive self-care.
Whether you’re looking for ways to practice self-care outside of bubble baths and face masks; want a helpful app that can help you on your self-care journey; or need some guidance to build a personalized self-care kit, there are self-care resources for you.