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Kansas City Mayoral Candidate Jason Kander Steps Down to Address His Mental Health

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Kansas City mayoral candidate and former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander is dropping out of the mayoral race to seek treatment for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

• What is PTSD?

Kander, an Army veteran, revealed in an essay on Medium that he is still affected by his tour in Afghanistan 11 years ago, but was “too scared to acknowledge [his] true symptoms.”

Kander was set to have a successful candidacy and said that he found out Sept. 25 that his campaign was going to raise more money than any other Kansas City mayoral campaign in a single quarter. Though this was a big accomplishment, Kander couldn’t celebrate it.

“I found myself on the phone with the VA’s Veterans Crisis Line, tearfully conceding that, yes, I have had suicidal thoughts,” Kander said. “And it wasn’t the first time.”

Kander said he also didn’t feel like he should have PTSD because other soldiers had it worse than him. Many people feel like they shouldn’t have PTSD, depression or another mental illness because others have it worse.

“So many men and women who served our country did so much more than me and were in so much more danger than I was on my four-month tour,” Kander wrote. “I can’t have PTSD, I told myself, because I didn’t earn it.”

Kander said he’s left boxes unchecked on health forms from the VA because he was scared of the stigma and the potential impact on his political career.

He said he’s avoided dealing with his mental health issues in the past. He thought coming home to Kansas City and running for mayor would fill the “hole inside” and solve his problems.

“So after 11 years of trying to outrun depression and PTSD symptoms, I have finally concluded that it’s faster than me,” Kander wrote. “That I have to stop running, turn around, and confront it.”

Kander wrote that he’s finally receiving help from the VA in Kansas City, but he has to focus on his mental health for the time being. Kander will also take a step back from day-to-day operations at Let America Vote, an organization he founded to end voter suppression across the U.S.

“To allow me to concentrate on my mental health, I’ve decided that I will not be running for mayor of Kansas City,” he wrote. “I truly appreciate all the support so many people in Kansas City and across the country have shown me since I started this campaign. But I can’t work on myself and run a campaign the way I want to at the same time, so I’m choosing to work on my depression.”

Kander said he decided to be open about his reasons from stepping down from the race because he feels it’ll help him recover and he wants to tell others struggling with their mental health that they don’t have to “solve it on your own.”

“Most people probably didn’t see me as someone that could be depressed and have had PTSD symptoms for over decade, but I am and I have,” he said. “If you’re struggling with something similar, it’s OK. That doesn’t make you less of a person.”

Originally published: October 2, 2018
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