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Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.: Diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Patrick Kennedy to visit

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Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., a patient at the Mayo Clinic since July, has bipolar disorder, the clinic said Monday -- a diagnosis that will not stand in the way of his continuing in Congress and seeking re-election, his spokesman told me.

Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) stayed in Congress for several years after he was diagnosed as bipolar and suffering from depression; Kennedy went on to speak out very publicly about his mental illness.

Kennedy is planning to visit him at Mayo on Thursday.

''Jesse and I served together for many years, and I've spoken to him several times, and I'm looking forward to visiting with him personally . . . just to impart for him my experience. There's an ability for Jesse to be helpful to others who come after him,'' Kennedy told the Associated Press on Monday. ''I can share with him not only my experience in recovery, but I can also obviously relate what it's like to struggle and be in public life.''

Jackson, absent from Congress since June 10, is responding well to treatment, the clinic said in a statement describing his specific illness as "Bipolar II." Bipolar disorders are commonly characterized by mood swings and are most often treated with medication.

"Following extensive evaluation," the famed clinic in Rochester, Minn., said in a statement, Jackson "is undergoing treatment for Bipolar II depression at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Congressman Jackson is responding well to the treatment and regaining his strength.

"Many Americans have bipolar disorder. Bipolar II disorder is a treatable condition that affects parts of the brain controlling emotion, thought and drive and is most likely caused by a complex set of genetic and environmental factors.

"Congressman Jackson underwent bariatric surgery in 2004, specifically a duodenal switch. This type of surgery is increasingly common in the US and can change how the body absorbs food, liquids, vitamins, nutrients and medications."

The clinic issued the update at Jackson's request. Jackson was admitted to Mayo at the end of July "for extensive inpatient evaluation for depression and gastrointestinal issues" after first seeking treatment at a facility in Tucson.

In the wake of the diagnosis, I asked Jackson spokesman Kevin Lampe on Monday if Jackson will continue to serve and if he will still run for re-election. Yes, he will stay in office and "the campaign is moving forward, Lampe said.

Last week, Ald Sandi Jackson (7th), the congressman's wife and campaign manager, told me, "We have a very robust campaign under way and we expect to have Jesse back at the head of the campaign."

Kennedy had several issues, including substance abuse. He spent almost a month at Mayo in 2006 in treatment for his addiction to pain-killers after he crashed a car near the U.S. Capitol. He never ran from his problems; he made them his cause. He teamed with Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.), a recovering alcoholic, to work on mental health policy, pushing for more health insurance coverage and less stigma.

Kennedy uses his celebrity to shine a spotlight on mental health issues, earlier this year talking about his own struggles in an interview with CNN's Piers Morgan.

"I spoke openly about it, because I knew that that's what my constituents wanted, and that's what they were anxious to hear. And in fact, many of them started talking to me about their own sets of challenges, that they felt ashamed about," he told Morgan in a July 16 interview. "Even though I grew up in a very different way from many of my constituents, they related to my experience, of fighting not only a mental illness, but the stigma that comes with that mental illness."

Jackson faces nominal opposition in November from Republican Brian Woodworth and independent Marcus Lewis.

Sandi Jackson said last week that Rep. Jackson could be out of Mayo in a few weeks.

When it's time, I expect he will also speak to his constituents. He knows they need to hear from him.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on August 13, 2012 11:42 PM.

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