(Photo: Reuters/Mitch Dumke)
Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. has been on medical leave since June 10, and former Rep. Patrick Kennedy has now visited with Jackson and spoken to the press about Jackson's current condition.
"I don't think people understand the depth of his depression," Kennedy told the Associated Press. "It's deep. He has a lot of work to continue to do to be able to learn how to treat this illness in the most effective way possible. Depression is a serious thing, and I'm glad that he's taking it seriously."
Jackson secretly entered a hospital for treatment and it was not immediately known what he was seeking treatment for. It was finally revealed that he is being treated for bipolar disorder at the Mayo Clinic. No one from the family has spoken about the disorder or Jackson's status.
Kennedy also has bipolar disorder and has been treated at the same clinic, in addition to being a friend and colleague of Jackson.
"It was clear we both had the same feelings of dejection and self-doubt and being in a situation where we thought we had let people down and let ourselves down," he explained. "It's going to take him some time to heal."
Jackson's wife, Sandi, was grateful for Kennedy's visit and noted that her husband was as well. Kennedy and Jesse have "a long history in Congress together."
Some have speculated about when Jackson may return to the House, but right now the focus is on building a support system and learning how to manage the illness.
"He's been through a kind of metamorphosis," Kennedy added. "The notion that he was getting mental health care was very distasteful. He did not want to acknowledge that this was the kind of help he needed. It took a public outing."
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 5.7 million American adults have bipolar disorder.