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April 02, 2023

John Fetterman discusses struggle with depression, recovery during 'CBS Sunday Morning' interview

The Pennsylvania senator entered treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on his son's birthday, but now has been discharged and hopes to be a better dad, husband and senator

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john fetterman interview Provided Image/CBS Sunday Morning

Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman opened up about his struggles with depression on the April 2 episode of 'CBS Sunday Morning,' in his first interview since being hospitalized for in-patient treatment about six weeks ago.

Sen. John Fetterman has publicly opened up about his struggles with depression in his first interview since being hospitalized for in-patient treatment about six weeks ago.

Fetterman spoke with CBS News' Jane Pauley for a segment that aired on the April 2 episode of "CBS Sunday Morning." The interview was filmed two days before Fetterman was discharged on Friday from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he'd been receiving treatment.

"My message right now isn't political," Fetterman said during the interview. "I'm just somebody that's suffering from depression."

This will be Fetterman's first time in remission with his depression, and he told Pauley he's looking forward to "start making up any lost time."

Fetterman, 53, is expected to return to his job on Capitol Hill during the week of April 17 after spending more than a month undergoing treatment for depression.

The Democratic senator from Pennsylvania, who began his first term in office in January after winning an intense Senate race against Mehmet Oz, has suffered from depression in the past. It became more serious in the weeks leading up to his hospitalization on Feb. 15, his office has said.

Fetterman's hospital stay has been the latest health struggle for the former Pennsylvania lieutenant governor and Braddock mayor.

Last year, he suffered a stroke while on the campaign trail. Depression is common among stroke survivors, according to the American Stroke Association. In fact, depression occurs in approximately one-in-three stroke patients. 

The stroke also affected Fetterman's hearing, with doctors at Walter Reed discovering a serious hearing deficit that complicates the way his brain processes spoken language. Fetterman notes that closed captioning has been helpful for him, although his reliance on it was put to the test during the campaign's one and only debate.

"If I'm in the race, and I made the decision to stay in the race, it's important that I show up for a debate, knowing it would be challenging," Fetterman says when Pauley asks whether the debate against Oz was fair. "And that's what we did."

After Fetterman won the race in November, flipping the Republican-held seat, his downward spiral began. Between the victory and being sworn-in in January, Fetterman says he stopped leaving his bed and eating. He was hospitalized earlier in February at George Washington University Hospital after becoming lightheaded while attending a Senate Democratic retreat. 

"It's like, you just won the biggest, you know, race in the country," he said. "And the whole thing about depression is, is that objectively, you may have won, but depression can absolutely convince you that you actually lost."

Fetterman's wife of 15 years, Gisele, has been supportive of her husband throughout his recovery and says she researched as much as possible about depression.

"He just became a Senator, he's married to me," Gisele Fetterman said. "He has amazing kids, and he's still depressed? And I think the outside would look and say, 'How does this happen?' But depression does not make sense, right? It's not rational."

Fetterman says while he never thought of self harm, he was "indifferent" about life. A doctor made arrangements for Fetterman to enter treatment on his son's 14th birthday.

Toward the end of the interview, Fetterman revealed his renewed mindset and hopeful aspirations for the future.

"You know, my aspiration is to take my son to the restaurant that we were supposed to go during his birthday but couldn't, because I had checked myself in for depression," Fetterman said. "And being the kind of dad, the kind of husband, and the kind of senator that Pennsylvania deserves, you know, that's truly, that's what my aspiration is."

"CBS Sunday Morning" can be streamed on Paramount+ or listened to in podcast form onlineThe news program, which has been the No. 1 Sunday morning news program for 22 consecutive broadcast seasons, highlights unique stories and airs Sunday mornings at 9 a.m.

Fetterman's full interview can be watched below.

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