Rep. Seth Moulton says that revealing his own struggles with post-traumatic stress was a “political risk.”
Dating back nearly half a century, there’s a well-documented history of mental health issues and rumors dogging previous presidential candidates. But in a “Vice News Tonight on HBO” segment Thursday shedding light on everything from Moulton’s town hall preparation to his coffee habit (exactly three cups a week), the Massachusetts congressman explained why he felt it was a risk worth taking.
“There’s a long history of veterans or other people who have dealt with mental health issues being really stigmatized,” Moulton, a Marine veteran, told Vice News in an interview filmed shortly after he revealed last month being haunted by memories of his Iraq War combat deployment.
“But there’s a big part of me that doesn’t really care,” he said, “because too many people in today’s world are doing things for political reasons and, I mean, I did this for the exact opposite.”
Moulton timed his announcement with his presidential campaign’s unveiling of a plan to expand mental health services — for veterans and all Americans. The Salem Democrat told Politico that he still checks in with a therapist once a month, even if his PSTD struggles have mostly faded.
At a campaign stop in Lynn, the White House hopeful said he used to be “haunted” daily by the war memory of driving past an injured Iraqi boy, who had been thrown from a car “shot up” by other Marines, writhing in pain in the middle of the road. Moulton said he made the “right,” but “painful,” decision of driving around the boy, because stopping would have endangered his platoon. Moulton told Politico that he’ll still have regrets, but that his once-weekly therapy sessions helped him manage them.
“The only reason I haven’t shared it up until this time is because I’ve been concerned about the political consequences,” he told Vice News. “And you know what: F— it, it’s the right thing to do.”
Since sharing his own story, Moulton has upped his advocacy for ending the stigma around mental health issues and PTSD, the latter of which is suffered by 8 million Americans in a given year, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“Mental health care should be a regular part of American life, and veterans can lead the way in ending the stigma around these issues for good,” he said in a statement upon releasing his plan last month.