WASHINGTON — Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., hospitalized at Mayo Clinic for a bipolar disorder and depression, will address soon whether he will “continue in public life,” former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) told CNN after visiting with him on Thursday.
Kennedy — who has suffered from a bipolar disorder, depression and addictions — did interviews with CNN and NBC — both shown Friday — about his visit with Jackson at the famed clinic in Rochester, Minn., where he was treated in 2006.
“I believe that in the short term, in the next couple weeks, he will be addressing his constituents about what his intentions are, as to whether he’s going to continue in public life or whether he is going to continue to focus on his long-term recovery,” Kennedy told CNN.
Jackson’s wife, Ald. Sandi Jackson (7th) — who is also his campaign manager — and Kevin Lampe, a Jackson spokesman, have been saying that Jackson continues to be a candidate on the November ballot.
It was not clear from Kennedy’s comments if he directly asked Jackson about his political future — or if he was just giving his impression after talking to him.
Asked by CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield if the scrutiny Jackson was under — as part of the probe of now imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich — caused stress that had something to do with his illness, Kennedy said it may well have.
“There is no doubt that the stress in his life, particularly because he is under investigation, clearly perhaps, precipitated this,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy on Thursday released several pictures of him visiting with Jackson. I have not been able to confirm if Kennedy distributed the pictures and was speaking out with permission or the blessings of Jackson’s family.
Kennedy, who has been very public about his struggles with his mental illness, is on a crusade to take away the stigma often attached to mental health issues.
In the CNN interview, Kennedy said if Jackson were at Mayo for cancer, “most American’s wouldn’t care, because they would be saying Jesse go get the help.” Suffering from a mental disease “sparks this prurient interest.”
Kennedy in the CNN and NBC interview with Kelly O’Donnell said Jackson was in a “deep depression.”
The two men served together in Congress and have talked about, Kennedy said, being the sons of famous fathers — the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson — who both decided on a career in “public life.”
O’Donnell reported that Kennedy told her Jackson felt under some pressure to resign or not run again. “He’s worried about his political future,” Kennedy said adding “I tried to emphasize there is a future.”
Kennedy told NBC Jackson’s illness “has taken him down, I mean nothing like a mental illness can threaten your life like what depression has done and I think that he knows that this is a very serious, life-and-death struggle he is involved with.”