This past week has featured reports of Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr (D-Il) being checked into the Mayo Clinic for clinical depression. Ordinarily that would raise my suspicions, consistent with my well-founded distrust of politicians, preachers and their relatives, and do-gooders in general.. One recalls the odiously transparent spectacle of Rep. Patrick Kennedy’s recent traffic stop-and-rehab pageant as the standard.
Moreover, I am more than a little jaded and suspicious whenever someone parades excuse labels like “depression” and “bipolar” as is now so often done for the slightest of complaints in the least acute of presentations. So much for the disqualifiers. In fact my first reaction to the reports conceding Jackson was pity, sorry for anyone that should suffer from a truly awful condition, and sorry that this should be splashed all over the headlines. What about the past Decade of HIPAA, which determined that even a patient’s name on a freaking door was a breach of privacy so egregious as to threaten all of modern care? And if this info was not discovered and broadcast without the patient’s consent, then why would the Jackson office make known such? Is this a deliberate distraction from some other controversy typical to politicians, or did he / they just want us all to know? And if so, why?
I take, as do we all in this work, depression very seriously and I truly wish Jackson well in fighting it. What bothers me is that what should be a private illness is so easily tossed around in the open as if it were anyone’s else’s’ business. (And please, spare me the “he’s helping to raise awareness” reflex, as we’ve had more than enough of celebrities trading their personal secrets as public coin for mass adulation.) We did not need to know about Reagan’s colonoscopy, nor about Obama’s smoking. All the public should know is that their officials are up to the job. A more civil society would learn to respect the legitimate privacy of it’s servants, and those officials would do better to keep their business to themselves, and their mouths shut. And if someone on Jackson’s staff, or in his family was the source, he should fire them when he gets out.