CHICAGO — Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. spoke out about his treatment for depression for the first time since the start of his secretive, four-month leave of absence, releasing a robocall Saturday to his south Chicago constituents in which he asks for patience while he recovers.
The 47-year-old Illinois Democrat and son of civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson quietly went on leave in early June and hasn't appeared publicly since, despite seeking re-election for a ninth term in office. Jackson's office didn't publicly disclose he had gone on leave until two weeks into it, and it initially refused to specify the nature of his illness or even say where he was. It was later revealed he had been hospitalized for treatment of bipolar disorder and gastrointestinal problems, first at a facility in Arizona and later at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
He was released in September and returned to the family's home in Washington, but has yet to return to the campaign trail with barely two and a half weeks to go before Election Day.
"Like many human beings, a series of events came together in my life at the same time and they have been difficult to sort through," Jackson said in the automated phone call. "I am human. I am doing my best. I am trying to sort through them all."
Jackson thanked his supporters and said he is "starting to heal" but that his doctors tell him the road to recovery is a long one.
"I am anxious to return to work on your behalf, but at this time it is against medical advice, and while I will always give my all to my constituents, I ask for your continued patience as I work to get my health back," he said.
The timing of the leave also has raised questions, since it comes as Jackson is under a House Ethics Committee investigation for ties to Illinois' imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
The committee is looking into allegations that Jackson was involved in discussions about raising money for Blagojevich's campaign in exchange for the then-governor appointing him to President Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat. Blagojevich has been imprisoned since March on corruption charges, including having tried to sell the seat.
Jackson has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
Jackson, who first won office in 1995, is on the November ballot with two little-known candidates. He's widely expected to win re-election.