U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. is in a "deep" depression and has a "lot of work" ahead of him on the road to recovery, former Rhode Island U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy said Thursday after visiting the hospitalized Chicago Democrat.
Jackson has been on a secretive medical leave since June 10, when, family members said, he collapsed at their home in Washington. He is currently being treated for bipolar disorder at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. But neither his office nor family members have released many details about his medical condition.
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The visit from Kennedy -- who has suffered with bipolar disorder himself and been treated at Mayo in the past -- gave one of the first outside glimpses of Jackson's health.
"I don't think people understand the depth of his depression. 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," Kennedy told The Associated Press. "Depression is a serious thing, and I'm glad that he's taking it seriously."
Jackson's spokesman declined to comment Thursday, and it's uncertain when Jackson can return to work. Last week, his office said the congressman could be expected back at work in a matter of weeks.
But after the Mayo Clinic released a detailed diagnosis of his health, his spokesman declined to comment.
Jackson's father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson has also declined to speak on the topic.
Kennedy, who served with Jackson on the House Appropriations Committee, left Congress last year. He has been an outspoken advocate for mental health for years and spoken publicly about his own struggles.
He's said that both he and Jackson have similarities: They both come from famous families and have received similar treatment.
"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," Kennedy told the AP after the visit with Jackson, which lasted more than an hour Thursday afternoon.
"It's going to take him some time to heal."
Details about Jackson's condition have been sparse and come out only in spurts.
His office initially described it -- two weeks after he went on leave -- as treatment for exhaustion. Later, it was referred to as a "mood disorder."
Jackson, 47, spent time at the Sierra Tucson Treatment Center in Arizona before he was transferred to Mayo earlier this month.
It was only this week that the Mayo Clinic specified his condition as Bipolar II. The condition affects parts of the brain controlling emotion, thought and drive.
Kennedy suggested that Jackson was initially reluctant to acknowledge that he needed medical care.
"He's been through kind of a metamorphosis. The notion that he was getting mental health care was very distasteful," Kennedy said.
"He did not want to acknowledge that this was the kind of help he needed. It took a public outing."