NPR spoke to Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., about returning to Congress after spending the first few months of his first Senate term in the hospital for depression.

In the exchange, the stroke survivor admitted that during his time away he felt like he was "not the kind of senator" that his state deserved, and that he was not the family man he should have been.

He also noted some of the advice doctors gave him to treat his depression, including staying away from news and social media. 


Fetterman waves to camera

Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., arrives at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Monday. Fetterman is returning to the Senate following six weeks of treatment for clinical depression. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Although Fetterman could not serve in full capacity at the beginning of his term — something even mainstream media warned about due to his rocky recovery from a stroke last year — the outlet turned it into a plus. 

The interview began with praise for Fetterman’s "transparency" on mental health issues that he portrayed throughout his treatment for depression. NPR stated, "Fetterman's public acknowledgment of his own mental health struggles is rare for politicians, even as depression has become an increasingly common challenge for Americans."

It then added, "With his transparency, Fetterman has created a platform for discussing mental health issues, and encouraged other politicians to share their own stories."

The outlet asked Fetterman about his feelings on returning to the Senate, to which he replied he was happy. He claimed his reaction was "just a big smile," and added, "I’ve really missed being here."

Fetterman also acknowledged that his health problems derailed him as a senator, husband and father. He said, "And when I was in the throes of depression, if I was being 100% honest, I was not the kind of senator that was deserved by Pennsylvanians. I wasn't the kind of partner that I owe to my wife, Gisele, or to my children, Karl, Grace, and August."


Fetterman released

Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., was released from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on March 31, 2023, after being treated for depression. (Office of Fetterman)

Fetterman detailed the extent of his depression before finally going into remission. The lawmaker claimed, "I was so depressed that I didn't even realize I was depressed. I didn't even understand it. This, to me, just became the new normal. I wasn't realizing [that] I wasn't eating. I didn't realize that I wasn't really drinking much."

He also admitted, "I dropped 25 pounds. And sometimes I would say things, incoherent things, and I would become kind of just [disoriented], and getting lost walking around in Washington."

Fetterman also mentioned his hesitation when given the option of being treated for depression, saying, "They knew that I wasn't right. But even at that moment, I still kind of pushed back about it, too, sometimes saying, 'Are you sure, I don't really need it.'"

The senator drew on his own experience to encourage others to get help if they think they might need it, saying, "Get treatment, and get help. If I'd had done that years ago, I would not have had to put my family and myself and my colleagues [through] that if I had gotten help."

Fetterman also shared some guidance the doctors gave him for his recovery. The outlet wrote, "Part of Fetterman's recovery per his doctors includes staying away from cable television news and social media — which might be good advice for everyone to follow."


The interview concluded with NPR assuring that "Fetterman is back and ready to work."