Kansas City mayoral candidate and Army veteran Jason Kander wants his supporters to "fight like hell" — because he can't right now
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Jason Kander
Credit: Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post via Getty

Kansas City mayoral candidate and Army veteran Jason Kander wants his supporters to “fight like hell” — because he can’t right now. The Jewish Democrat, 37, announced Tuesday that he is dropping out of the mayoral race, saying he’s choosing instead to focus on the post-traumatic stress disorder and depression he’s suffered from for more than 11 years after a tour Afghanistan.

Kander has been the figure to watch for progressives, thanks to his founding of Let America Vote, which prevents voter suppression, in 2017, and his tenure as Missouri’s secretary of state from 2013 until last year.

Kander announced he was withdrawing from the race in an emotional Facebook post on Tuesday.

“About four months ago, I contacted the [Veterans Affairs Department] to get help. It had been about 11 years since I left Afghanistan as an Army Intelligence Officer, and my tour over there still impacted me every day,” the father of one began. “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. I can’t have PTSD, I told myself, because I didn’t earn it. But, on some level, I knew something was deeply wrong, and that it hadn’t felt that way before my deployment.”

Kander says he went as far as filling out VA forms online — but not accurately because he was “too scared to acknowledge my true symptoms…

“I was afraid of the stigma,” he wrote. “I was thinking about what it could mean for my political future if someone found out. That was stupid, and things have gotten even worse since.”

Despite his past few months being packed with accomplishments, from a New York Times best-selling book to raising “more money than any Kansas City mayoral campaign ever has in a single quarter,” Kander said he’s still had “suicidal thoughts” and that he’s finally “done hiding this from myself and from the world.” He added, “When I wrote in my book that I was lucky to not have PTSD, I was just trying to convince myself. And I wasn’t sharing the full picture. I still have nightmares. I am depressed.”

Kander also revealed that he decided to run for mayor as a way to temporarily “fix the hole inside me,” and to “outrun his symptoms,” but unfortunately, he explained, “it’s faster than me… I have to stop running, turn around, and confront it.”

He’s now planning to seek help at a local Veterans Affairs office and has conceded that he can’t run a thorough, impactful mayoral campaign at the same time. “So I’m choosing to work on my depression,” he stated simply.

Kander says he debated whether to reveal his true reason for dropping out, and he shared that he ultimately made his decision because he believes honesty will help both himself and others.

“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 wrote. “If you’re struggling with something similar, it’s OK. That doesn’t make you less of a person. I wish I would have sought help sooner, so if me going public with my struggle makes just one person seek assistance, doing this publicly is worth it to me.”

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He also posted the number for the VA Crisis Line,1-800-273-8255, which non-veterans can call, too, and reminded supporters that he hasn’t dropped his political aspirations. “I’m passing my oar to you for a bit,” he said. “I hope you’ll grab it and fight like hell to make this country the place we know it can be.”

According to the National Center for PTSD, about 7 to 8 percent of the population will struggle with the condition at some point in their lives, with about 8 million adults living through PTSD every year. Rates of this type of mental illness are higher among women than men — 10 percent as compared to 4 percent.

Up to 20 percent of veterans who served in the Iraq War have experienced some degree of PTSD. This rate is higher than that of Gulf War survivors, about 12 percent, but lower than Vietnam vets’, about 30 percent. The New York Times reported that suicide is a growing problem in young veterans.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).