U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.’s office released some new information Wednesday evening about the ailment that has sidelined the Chicago Democrat for over a month. The release followed a wave of unconfirmed rumors and reports.
A statement, attributed to Jackson’s physician, said, "The congressman is receiving intensive medical treatment at a residential treatment facility for a mood disorder."
"He is responding positively to treatment and is expected to make a full recovery," the statement continued.
The update came from an unnamed physician at an unnamed facility; details, the statement said, were withheld "in order to protect [Jackson’s] continuing privacy."
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the term “mood disorders” covers anything from chronic, minor depression to major depression to bipolar disorder.
NBC news, citing anonymous sources, reported that Jackson was being treated in Arizona for alcoholism. To that, Jackson’s office said, "The rumors about him being treated for alcohol or substance abuse [are] not true."
Last month, Jackson’s office said he was on medical leave to get treatment for exhaustion. Last Thursday, his staff said the congressman's condition was more serious that they initially believed, and that Jackson had "grappled with certain physical and emotional ailments privately for a long period of time."
Dr. Daniel Yohanna, vice chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Chicago, said depression is more common than some other mood disorders and affects about five percent of men at some point in their lives. Symptoms can range from sleep disturbance and appetite problems to hopelessness and thoughts of suicide, though cure rates are very high, he said.
"It could come out of nowhere, it runs in families, you could have a genetic predisposition, or it can come after a difficulty in your life," Yohanna said. "Once it gets rolling it's hard to stop it on your own."
Ian Gotlib, a professor of psychology at Stanford University, said depression is generally treated on an outpatient basis. But he said that if doctors were concerned about the safety of the patient or if the disorder were severe enough, they could recommend inpatient treatment.
"The good news is that it's clearly treatable," Gotlib said, adding that counseling and prescription drugs would be likely for inpatient treatment and that it could take weeks.
It's unclear whether Wednesday's statement would temper the mounting demands for full disclosure of the congressman's ailment.
Some top Democrats, including — most recently — House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, have called for Jackson to provide more information. "People get sick, and when people get sick, they miss work. Everybody in America understands that," Hoyer said. "But I think the family would be well advised to give his constituents as much information as is appropriate."
Fellow Illinois Democrats Sen. Dick Durbin and Rep. Luis Gutierrez have called it Jackson's responsibility as a public official to disclose details. Jackson's little-known opponents in the November election have spoken out on the same issue, and some voters in his district have asked questions.
Durbin was unavailable for comment Wednesday evening after the Jackson office's latest statement.
The timing of the leave has invited scrutiny, coming as Jackson faces an ethics investigation in the U.S. House connected to imprisoned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Days before Jackson's office announced his leave, a fundraiser and family friend also involved in the probe was arrested and charged with unrelated medical fraud charges.
The pending House Ethics Committee investigation is focusing on allegations that Jackson discussed raising money for Blagojevich's campaign so the then-Illinois governor would appoint him to President Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat. Blagojevich is serving a prison sentence for corruption. Jackson has denied the claims.
Jackson also allegedly directed a fundraiser, Raghuveer Nayak, to buy plane tickets for a woman described as Jackson's "social acquaintance." Jackson and his wife have called that a personal matter.
Nayak was the fundraiser arrested and charged with the unrelated medical fraud charges. He has pleaded not guilty.
At Blagojevich's 2010 corruption trial, prosecutors said another Blagojevich fundraiser was ready to testify that Jackson instructed Nayak to raise money for Blagojevich's campaign to help him secure the Senate seat. The same witness later testified he attended a meeting with Jackson and Nayak.
Jackson was not charged and has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.
Jackson faces a Republican and independent candidate in November, though he's widely expected to win re-election. He first won office in a 1995 special election and has easily won each race since. Jackson's district includes parts of Chicago and some suburbs but was expanded during the last redistricting process to include less familiar territory further south of the city.