Jesse Jackson Jr. - Is a Person with Bipolar Disorder Electable?

August 21, 2012 Natasha Tracy

As you might have heard, last week it was revealed that Jesse Jackson Jr., an Illinois congressman, is in treatment for bipolar disorder. Jackson Jr. has been on medical leave since June 10th and has been diagnosed with bipolar II.

As Candice Crawford, CEO and president of the Mental Health Association of Central Florida in Orlando, says, “People with bipolar II can lead perfectly normal lives.”

I agree completely, but the question is, can they be elected to public office?

Type II Bipolar Disorder

To review, people with bipolar disorder type II suffer from depressions and hypomanias. Hypomania differs from traditional mania in that it is not as severe. Psychosis does not occur in hypomania and hypomania, and does not directly endanger the sufferer or others.

I believe that a person with a stabilized mental illness, including bipolar II, can handle the responsibilities of being a public official, but then, that’s not the question. The question is will enough of his constituency agree to re-elect him.

I think the answer to that question, is “no.”

Re-Election of Jesse Jackson Jr.

I am not a political person and I can’t tell you about the politics of Jackson Jr.. What I can tell you though is that he won a race against former Republican Debbie Halvorson earlier this year and was predicted to win a ninth term in November, when he is up for reelection.

Of course, that was before anyone knew he had a mental illness. Now that people know, I suspect his future doesn’t look so bright.

From what I understand, few politicians have admitted to having a mental illness, and those who have have either been ousted, as in the case of Senator Thomas Eagleton, or left politics, as in the case of Congressman Patrick Kennedy.

And I suspect those are the only two options for Jackson Jr. as well.

Us regular folks with a mental illness know how hard it is to be accepted by our families and friends let alone the public at large that has precious little accurate knowledge around mental illness. And does anyone really think that a public who gets caught up in sex scandals and a candidate’s religion is really going to have an ability to see past a mental illness to the person behind it?

I think not.

Now don’t get me wrong, I hope I’m wrong about this. I hope the American people show me that they have bigger, more open minds than I think. I hope the American public trounces stigma and makes strides towards acceptance of people with a mental illness.

But I just don’t think that’s going to happen. At this point, I think Jackson Jr. is unelectable.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2012, August 21). Jesse Jackson Jr. - Is a Person with Bipolar Disorder Electable?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 21 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

October, 27 2012 at 8:00 pm

Well the fact that he returned to Mayo right after the Feds decide to investigate him is also a possible factor. As a political activist who now lives in the Chicago burbs, I can tell you this issue did not come up until he was involved in the Rod Blagovich fall. He has repeatedly been investigated and questioned. When he first went to Mayo the first time he declared it was for Gastrointestinal issues.
He's very well liked in his area. It's Chicago anything is possible.

August, 26 2012 at 1:17 pm

I think the fact that he has been in a hospital and not at his job, as well as his legal troubles, are not helping matters. If a congressperson who was managing their illness well, and had been performing their job well, were to "come out" after a couple of terms and admit to ongoing treatment for a mood disorder- it might be ok. Maybe. But if you only disclose after you crash your car or get investigated for for corruption, and miss a lot of time while in "treatment," I don't think it will work. And really, we need elected officials who we are in good enough health to be able to show up for votes on the floor. He is not- and it doesn't matter what illness he has that is keeping him away.

August, 23 2012 at 2:58 am

It really depends what spin you put on it, and how you sell the whole package to the voters. Could go either way, really.

August, 22 2012 at 7:52 pm

I am saying "no". Its too soon. I know its a horrible thing to say because I am sure politics is a true passion for him but he has a couple of years of therapy and recovery ahead of him before any stress like that can even be considered coming back into his life. I do wish him the best though and I hope he gets better care then Obama-care in 2014; otherwise we will probably never hear from him again.

Peter Chamberlain
August, 21 2012 at 6:18 pm

This one I am intentionally posting as myself.
I'm a conservative on most issues (on the others the same religious, economic, and legal education, and professional and life experience, which includes living with clinical depression since childhood, that make me a Republican on most issues convince me that too many conservatives and Republicans have got some issues wrong contrary to their own professed core beliefs in individual liberty, etc.) and often disagreed with Jackson, Patrick Kennedy, etc.
A very good, very bright friend of mine, who had told me Winston Churchill was his hero, and who I had told about my life-long and formerly suicidal clinical depression, treatment, etc., and who agrees with me on most issues, once told me that he could never vote for a Presidential candidate who had ever had mental illness. As gently as I could, I pointed out to him that Winston Churchill had written of the "black dog" of his own chronic clinical depression while leading Britain through Wourld War II in the days before modern antidepressants, Abraham Lincoln's "melancholia" (depression, which I have read led him to write at least one letter about sometimes being afraid to carry a pocket knife, etc. George Wallace of Alabama, with whose politics and racial views (until he reformed later) I disagreed, and an Oregon U.S. Senator (I think Packwood if my recollection is right after years) continued in politics after their VA records of "battle fatigue", i.e., PTSD, were illegally leaked by their political opponents. Highly decorated World War II hero Audie Murphy, from here, had spoken of his "battle fatigue" too, so don't tell me our vets with that are not brave. I have known several people who, like Eagleton, have had ECT, and the one who had it most recently (improved process) is in good mental shape and I would trust him with a deer rifle or the launch code for a nuclear war. I have known some officials elected or appointed to all three branches of government as provided, who I knew, in privileged and confidential relationships and communications, had significant mental health issues and treatment histories, but the voters did not, although in some cases I think the media did and covered for them for political rather than privacy reasons. Some were good, some were lousy, corrupt, etc., just like other politicians. I have also known a few who didn't think they needed anything who I thought were wrong.
If I had been Jackson's family, close friends, or campaign manager, I hope I would have urged him to get help before this got to the point it apparently did.
When they asked Wallace's doctor if he was a viable candidate after he was shot and paralyzed, and after his VA mental health record had been illegally published, if, in his expert professional opinion, Wallace was a viable cndidate, he wisely said "He's a viable man. Whether he's a viable candidate is not within my expertise and is for the voters to decide."
Whether a given incumbent or new candidate can come out and talk about his treatment for mental illness and still get elected, given the very prevalent bias, prejudice, and stigma against "mental patients," as a class (lumping very different conditions and present status' together), which even still exists in state and federal case law, is another question.
Come on, now. I'm a retired lawyer and pretty good at research, and we often vote on candidates we don't really know, and can't find out, enough about to make a rational decision whether or not to trust them to come into our homes and fix our toilets, work in a day care center, be alone with their own or anyone else's child, or to hold a position of public trust and power. Attorney-client confidentiality representing children prevents me from telling you, or the voters, why some I know won't vote for their family members, but if your daughter, etc., is being treated for the effects of abuse at home and won't vote for you, you won't get my vote either.

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