Mental health is not weakness


Quézia Arruda Cunha, Reporter

When I was younger, I dreamed of being the president of the Brazilian Republic. 

I swore to myself that I would be the role model that everyone would look up to. My vision of a leader of the nation was about complete excellence — an unbroken figure, without flaws and not held back by ordinary human emotions.

Today, I understand how wrong I was. I confess that I am afraid of this seven-year-old version of myself.

Today, I see leaders everywhere — leaders of nations, leaders of small groups in society or ordinary people who simply mentor others. 

It is crucial that we understand that public figures will always aim to serve as role models and symbols of power. However, they are still human figures, just like you and me.

A recent case involving Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania reveals this very clearly.

According to NBC News, the senator “checked himself into Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to receive treatment for clinical depression” last month, according to Adam Jentleson, his chief of staff. 

If I told my seven-year-old self of this, she would no doubt associate this revelation with a scandal; an example not to be followed; an example of weakness. And I’m sure that many still associate it with the same concepts.

For me, today, conversations about the mental state or mental health of a person in power is an urgent public service.

In the case of Fetterman, it is easy to understand that his job is a race: a race for power or influence, a race to meet the agenda and a race to achieve popularity and congressional support.

In the midst of this pressure, symptoms of clinical depression and anxiety are serious and have understandable consequences.

NBC shared that “based on conversations the aide has had with the senator about the challenges he’s faced post-stroke, the aide described Fetterman’s struggle adjusting to his new reality and said the senator has wrestled with questions about his self-worth.”

I see no weakness in a senator who doubts his ability. I see humanity and, consequently, a common bond between a representative and his constituents.

Having a public figure clarify their need for help opens the door to conversations both inside and outside of the political sphere.

President Joe Biden used Twitter to continue this conversation among the “untouchables” in politics.

“John, Gisele — Jill and I are thinking about your family today. Millions of people struggle with depression every day, often in private. Getting the care you need is brave and important. We’re grateful to you for leading by example,” Biden said on Twitter. 

I grew up in a family scenario where my father constantly told himself that “men don’t cry.” In Brazil, this philosophy is still very evident in the country today. 

The exposition of the emotional state of the Pennsylvania senator is an example that, regardless of gender, everyone is subject to mental health issues.

Talking about this subject is making room for those who need help to have the courage to seek it, without fear and without shame.

I hope more people stop having the mentality of a seven-year-old little girl. 

I hope we all can see that, in this story, there is no weak versus strong.