Illinois Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.’s family is continuing to shelter what is the worst kept secret in America today – Jackson has had some form of mental breakdown.
This is nothing of which to be ashamed. Each of us is programmed differently with our genetic makeups and environmental experiences. Jackson reached a point where he exhausted his resources and needed some redirection. Apparently, he is getting the professional help that he needs. Hopefully, he can come back and still serve his district as a Congressman.
Yet there is something greater to be served than being a Congressman. Jackson can open the door to greater understanding of mental illnesses by not shrouding what is happening to him in a veil of secrecy. However, keeping this a secret will not accomplish this. This is not Jackson’s fault. He is probably not in any condition to make this decision. His family is making them for him, and they are doing a horrible job.
Rumors have floated that Jackson has an alcohol or drug problem, but that is probably not the problem. His father, Jesse Jackson, has said that it is “inappropriate” to discuss his son’s health. Actually, it is inappropriate for a public figure like Jackson to disappear from sight for over a month without an explanation about what ails him.
By coming clean with the illness plaguing Jackson, a great public service can be accomplished. Many Americans will increase their understanding of behavioral disorders. Yes, there will be haters who will ridicule Jackson, but they will only reveal their own ignorance and narrow-mindedness.
America has made a lot of progress in understanding mental disorders, but there is more to do and now is an opportunity.
Twenty percent of the soldiers that have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan have experienced problems with adjusting to a non-military life. Today, we understand that these problems need a lot more treatment than what General George Patton did in World War II by slapping a soldier who suffered battle fatigue.
Longterm stress plays havoc on the mind, whether it is for a soldier or a Congressman. There is nothing to be ashamed in these situations, except for unnecessary denial.
While hiding whatever ails Jackson, his family is doing him a disservice. His mother has stated that her son has experienced great disappointment over the last few years because he has seen his chances to be a mayor or senator collapse. It is unlikely that this is the sole cause of Jackson’s “mood disorder,” as his office calls it.
Although his reputation was tarnished by the Rod Blagojevich scandal, Jackson was never implicated. That he will probably never be a mayor or a senator is a great disappointment for Jackson, but if these were horrible things inflicted on a person, then there would be mass mental breakdowns of politicians after every election. Political dreams are squelched in every election. People get over it, unless there are other reasons driving people to instability. This is what is happening to Jackson, but we are not getting the full story.
Instead, Jacqueline Jackson, Jesse’s mother, is making excuses about political disappointments being the cause of his illness. She then makes the absured suggestion that young people do not bounce back as she and her husband do.
Let us get something straight. Jackson is 47. I am 53. If someone wants to call me young, that is just fine, but it is factually wrong. At 47, youth is not a problem preventing someone from bouncing back. That is because at 47 no one can be called young. In truth, younger people often have a greater capability to bounce back than older people because of their vitality.
This is part of a smokescreen by the Jackson family that is not serving anyone, especially Jackson. Jackson needs either to resign or open up. Resigning would be a terrible mistake because there is a great opportunity here.
As a public figure, America is owed the truth from Jackson. For the millions who suffer similar ailments, Jackson can create greater understanding of their suffering. Jackson may not have a future as a mayor or a senator but he could become the most prominent voice in America in support of mental health. It is time for the Jackson family to wake-up to this. What they are doing now is not doing anyone any good, especially Jesse Jackson, Jr.