It’s not just idiosyncratic attitudes to healthcare that distinguish the US from other polities in terms of health (as Louis Theroux would probably confirm). The US political establishment represents those with mental illnesses at almost every level.
Here’s a selection of American politicians who have publicly disclosed details about their mental health. The question is: is there’s something in the water, or are they just more open about it?
Senator Thomas Eagleton
The original vice president on George McGovern’s 1972 presidential ticket, Eagleton was removed when psychiatrists advised McGovern that Eagleton’s depression might affect his ability to lead if the occasion arose. Despite only 23% of the country saying that this would affect their vote, Eagleton was dropped from the ticket. He continued to serve as senator for Missouri, an office he had held since 1968, until 1987 – which means he was re-elected twice in spite of public knowledge about his depression.
Congressman Patrick J Kennedy
One of the lesser known Kennedys, Congressman Patrick J Kennedy disclosed his battle with depression in 2000, having served nearly three terms. Declaring that he wanted to “break the stigma” attached to mental illness, he revealed that he was undergoing therapy for his condition. His disclosure met almost no criticism and he went on to serve as congressman for the Rhode Island first district until 2011.
Governor Lawton Chiles
Democrat Lawton Chiles developed and disclosed his clinical depression around the time of his retirement from the Senate in 1989. Just over a year later, however, having been convinced by friends and family to re-enter politics, he was elected Governor of Florida. Few questioned this decision and certainly his mental health was of little concern to the electorate. Only a challenger for the Democratic nomination, Bill Nelson, dared to try to score points off it: “We Democrats lost an important US Senate seat two years ago when Lawton Chiles decided he was suddenly burned out with public service. Which job is the more mentally and physically and emotionally demanding, governor or US senator?” The implication, of course, was that governor was the more demanding and that Chiles was therefore unfit for office. But the cheap slur failed and Chiles won both the nomination and the Florida gubernatorial election – and remains the only Democrat to have done so.
Governor Mark Dayton
Democrat Mark Dayton disclosed his mild depression, and how he had been suffering with it his whole life, in 2009, in the middle of his campaign to become Governor of Minnesota. At the time he said he felt people had the right to know. He still won.