Jason Kander is back after quietly working through PTSD
The Associated Press
By: Margaret Stafford, The Associated Press and Jim Salter
July 28, 2019
"I feel the best I've felt in a very, very long time. I'm really enjoying life." Jason KanderKANSAS CITY, Mo. — Not so many months ago, Jason Kander was spending his life on airplanes. The picture of youth and energy, Kander was in demand from Democratic groups across the U.S., a military veteran from middle America making a powerful case for generational change in his party, possibly with an eye toward a 2020 presidential run.
In this Nov. 9, 2016, file photo, Democrat Jason Kander concedes to Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., during an election watch party at the Uptown Theater in Kansas City, Mo. (Orlin Wagner/AP)
But beneath the swagger, something inside Kander's head weighed on him — nightmares, paranoia, even suicidal thoughts. Like so many veterans, he was carrying the unspoken burden of post-traumatic stress disorder, and suddenly last fall he detailed his personal struggles and dropped from public view .
Now, Kander is re-emerging with a healthier mental state and a new focus on helping other veterans, leading the national expansion of a program in his hometown of Kansas City, Missouri, called Veterans Community Project. At the same time he’s easing back into the fringes of politics — doing national TV interviews, appearing with Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg during the candidate’s visit to Kansas City (though he hasn’t endorsed any specific candidate), and talking candidly about his experience reconciling trauma, healing and political ambition.
"I feel the best I've felt in a very, very long time," Kander told The Associated Press. "I'm really enjoying life."
But as he campaigned last year, Kander failed to seek help "for the same reasons I hadn't in the past — I was worried about the stigma, I was worried about how it would affect my political career. That just allowed things to get much, much worse," he said.
One night, things got so bad that he phoned a suicide hotline for veterans. Days later, on Oct. 2, he dropped out of the race with a statement acknowledging his PTSD.
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