(NewsNation) — After news spread of her husband Sen. John Fetterman seeking in-patient treatment for depression, Gisele Barreto Fetterman says she faced “vicious attacks” that stemmed from a “blame the woman” mindset.
“The extremist right is very good at that,” she said Tuesday on “Elizabeth Vargas Reports.” “It’s always the woman’s fault no matter what happens.”
After the senator admitted himself to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for treatment, Fetterman took her kids to Niagara Falls to escape the media frenzy outside her house. That’s when the social media criticism began, with some accusing Fetterman of kidnapping her own children.
“They promoted conspiracy theories claiming I was an ambitious, power hungry wife, secretly plotting to fill his Senate seat. It was all so wildly preposterous,” she wrote in her op-ed.
In reality, she was explaining to her children that they weren’t the source of their father’s sadness.
“I think with children you have to be honest. I shared with them how brave he was, that he did this and that he made this decision, but he is human and we have to support him,” she said. “It’s important for the kids to know that it’s not something they did or didn’t do. This is something very different. Depression lives in a different world to love and a different world to family.”
John Fetterman returned to the Senate last week. He has described his depression as “in remission” and spoken publicly about how depression made him feel like he was constantly losing.
Gisele Fetterman said she could tell immediately after his election that he was suffering. She detailed in an interview with People magazine how she encouraged him to seek help.
“After he won … I think I expected him to then be at his highest, his best, feeling great, and I thought his reaction didn’t match the expected reaction — joy, relief. He seemed extra sad after winning,” she said. “We talked a lot about it, and I think for him what really stuck is when I said … ‘the kids are so lucky to have you, but I don’t want their memory of you to be of someone who is sad.'”
In his first interview after his release, Fetterman tearfully described the “downward spiral” of depression. Instead of focusing on politics, he said it was a message for others to get help.
Now, Gisele Fetterman says her husband is “doing great.”
“All these experiences make him that much better a senator, that much better a person, that much more empathetic,” she said. “I think what he has been able to do as a junior senator in a very short period of time will absolutely save lives.”
NewsNation correspondent Evan Lambert contributed to this report.
If you or a loved one are experiencing mental distress, please call or text 988 for the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.