Can­dor on PTSD should in­spire oth­ers

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum - Reprinted from the St. Louis Post-Dis­patch.

Ja­son Kan­der, the for­mer Mis­souri sec­re­tary of state whose U.S. Se­nate bid brought him na­tional at­ten­tion as a ris­ing Demo­cratic star, stunned the po­lit­i­cal world ear­lier this month by drop­ping out of the may­oral race in Kansas City, Mo. He said he needed to pur­sue treat­ment for de­pres­sion re­lated to post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der.

“Af­ter 11 years of try­ing to out­run de­pres­sion and PTSD symp­toms, I have fi­nally con­cluded that it’s faster than me . ... I have to stop run­ning, turn around, and con­front it,” Kan­der posted Tues­day.

Kan­der’s hon­est and elo­quent ex­pla­na­tion for sus­pend­ing a promis­ing po­lit­i­cal ca­reer should serve as in­spi­ra­tion to other PTSD suf­fer­ers to face their con­di­tion and get help. If he even­tu­ally re­turns to pol­i­tics, it will at­test to Amer­ica’s so­ci­etal evo­lu­tion on men­tal health is­sues since the days when Sen. Thomas Ea­gle­ton of Mis­souri had to leave a na­tional ticket for once sought psy­chi­atric treat­ment.

Kan­der, 37, an at­tor­ney, served in Afghanistan as an Army in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer. Even be­fore Tues­day’s an­nounce­ment, there had been hints of how that tour af­fected him. “Given the na­ture of my job over there, I had been wor­ried less about be­ing shot or blown up and more about be­ing kid­napped,” Kan­der wrote in his au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal best­seller, “Out­side the Lines,” pub­lished this year. “And now that I was back in my own bed, it seemed that the Tal­iban cap­tured me ev­ery night.”

Nonethe­less, Kan­der ven­tured into pol­i­tics and was elected sec­re­tary of state in 2008. In 2016, as Don­ald Trump dom­i­nated Mis­souri by al­most 19 per­cent­age points, Kan­der came within three points of un­seat­ing Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) — aided by an ad that cir­cu­lated na­tion­ally in which he as­sem­bled a mil­i­tary ri­fle while blind­folded.

When Kan­der en­tered Kansas City’s crowded 2019 may­oral race this year, vic­tory seemed a vir­tual cer­tainty. But the whole time, Kan­der wrote ealier in the month, he was strug­gling with night­mares, sui­ci­dal thoughts and other PTSD symp­toms.

He fi­nally con­tacted Vet­er­ans Af­fairs au­thor­i­ties to be­gin treat­ment. “If you’re strug­gling with some­thing sim­i­lar, it’s OK. That doesn’t make you less of a per­son,” he wrote. “I wish I would have sought help sooner, so if me go­ing pub­lic with my strug­gle makes just one per­son seek as­sis­tance, do­ing this pub­licly is worth it to me.”

Mis­souri­ans know some­thing of what seek­ing men­tal health treat­ment can do to a po­lit­i­cal ca­reer. Ea­gle­ton was briefly the Demo­cratic Party’s 1972 vice pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee. He was forced to leave Ge­orge McGovern’s ticket af­ter rev­e­la­tions of his treat­ment for de­pres­sion years ear­lier.

We hope times and at­ti­tudes have changed. With this episode, Kan­der has shown him­self to be the kind of hon­est, straight­for­ward leader we should en­cour­age in pub­lic ser­vice. But his first pri­or­ity should be to con­cen­trate on get­ting the help he needs.

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