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Patrick Kennedy has 'emotional' meeting with Jesse Jackson Jr.

Courtesy Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy

Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) meets with Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who is undergoing treatment for bipolar disorder at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.


Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL) received a special visit at the Mayo Clinic from a longtime friend and colleague on Thursday. Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) traveled to Minnesota to spend time with Jackson, Jr. who is undergoing treatment for bipolar disorder.

Kennedy told NBC News their meeting was "really emotional." Kennedy said it was clear to him that Jackson has been "dealing with a deep depression" that has also affected him physically. "In the room, I could feel it," said Kennedy, referring to the depression's impact on Jackson's physical movement, demeanor and energy.

Courtesy Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy

Patrick Kennedy and Jesse Jackson Jr. meet at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., Aug. 16.

During their time together, Kennedy said Jackson talked about the political pressure he has felt to either resign from Congress or not seek re-election. "He's worried about his political future," Kennedy said adding "I tried to emphasize there is a future."  Kennedy attempted to offer reassurance by telling Jackson he is an "inspiration" for "showing people this is a serious issue that should be dealt with like any other medical condition." Kennedy urged Jackson to consider that he is making clear to the public and his constituents that "he is getting treatment like he would if he had cancer and this is just as deadly."  Kennedy was referring to suicide rates for serious mental illnesses.

Kennedy did not indicate that Jackson has made any decisions about his own political career and he did not offer any specific advice. Kennedy understands that Jackson feels the weight of the stigma often associated with mental illness. Kennedy said, "he asked about me, how did I get through this?" Kennedy has received treatment for depression and addiction at the same Minnesota facility and was able to remain in office.  Kennedy chose not to seek another House term in 2010.

Courtesy Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy

Jesse Jackson Jr. and Patrick Kennedy at the Mayo Clinic, Aug. 16.

Both are sons of famous fathers who have carried that weight throughout their lives and now share a "common struggle" with depression. Kennedy and Jackson, both in their 40s, have been friends for many years.

Kennedy says he is "confident" Jackson is making progress and deserves credit for "staying with it, "by remaining in treatment when he likely feels so much pressure "to get out." Jackson took a leave of absence from Congress June 10th.