Kadner: A reason to give Jackson some privacy and time
Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org | (708) 633-6787 July 12, 2012 10:14PM
Updated: August 14, 2012 6:24AM
Assume U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Chicago) is suffering from a mental illness.
I don’t like speculating on such a subject, but since Jackson’s staff released a statement last month that he was on a medical leave of absence from Congress, there’s been a lot of speculation going on by the news media and the general public.
He has AIDS, some callers have suggested. He’s been abusing drugs or is an alcoholic, say others. Maybe he’s had a stroke.
He’s just trying to set up an excuse for public misconduct should he be indicted by the federal government or a House Ethics Committee, the true cynics contend.
The lack of information provided about the congressman’s condition by his family and the poorly worded news releases from his staff have created a situation that provokes such gossip.
But the most recent news release, that he’s suffering from a “mood disorder,” suggests there’s a real possibility Jackson is dealing with a mental illness.
“Mood disorder” probably doesn’t mean much to the average person.
Hey, we’re all moody at one time or another.
But there are very specific psychiatric diagnostic criteria for mood disorders, which include among them bipolar disorders and major depressive disorders.
A person beginning treatment for such a condition can’t be expected to make rational decisions for himself.
And given the stigma attached to mental illness, the first thought of a patient is often, “I don’t want anyone to know.”
Since trust is important in the treatment process, doctors and therapists would not only be violating an oath to release information about a patient, but more importantly would endanger the ability to treat their patient by violating his privacy.
Even if Jackson were to urge them to make such an announcement (a request that would have to be weighed against his ability to make appropriate decisions at this time) there would be a concern that others suffering from mental illness would see such public statements as a reason not to seek treatment.
“Everyone’s going to know if I seek help,” they could think. “Just look at what happened to Congressman Jackson. My life would be ruined.”
So unlike the situation with U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who suffered a stroke, doctors may never appear at a news conference to discuss the congressman’s condition.
Instead of speculating on the unknown, let’s remember what we do know.
Jackson has spent three years under a cloud of suspicion for his role in the attempted purchase of a U.S. Senate seat during the administration of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
A friend of his was accused of not only making that offer, but revealed to federal agents that he helped Jackson arrange to fly his Washington, D.C. female “social acquaintance” into Chicago.
While Ald. Sandi Jackson remains married to the congressman, the relationship at home has to be stressful.
Professionally, the congressman has to know that despite his pleas of innocence, even people close to him still wonder if he authorized the attempted bribe.
He is, politically speaking, damaged goods.
There are few places Jackson could go, at home or at the office, where he wouldn’t be under pressure.
He may believe his career has hit a political dead end, even if he did win this year’s Democratic primary.
I’m told by sources close to the congressman that he had been unable to sleep for days, possibly even weeks, a key indicator of a mental disorder.
It seems logical to me that any person in his situation might become depressed.
Could there also be a substance abuse problem? There often is among the mentally ill, but his staff denies all such rumors.
I find it ironic that people are making a fuss over Jackson’s absence from Congress when most people would tell you that congressmen do nothing but cause problems.
Suddenly, it becomes vital that he represent his constituents, when all the politicians in Washington, D.C. seem to be doing is playing political games.
I was among those who called for the release of more information earlier this month.
But it is far easier for someone to say publicly they have cancer, diabetes or a heart condition than it is to admit a mental illness.
There’s more sympathy and understanding for people with those other conditions. More fear and mystery about mental illness.
If that is Jackson’s problem, he will not be able to keep the condition a secret, as most people do. And that may make recovery more of a challenge.
The congressman must talk fully about his condition soon.
But for now, I’m willing to assume he needs some time.