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CHICAGO (CBS) – Rev. Jesse Jackson said Wednesday that his son Jesse Jackson Jr.’s decision to resign from Congress has caused “a great sense of pain” for his family, but he said they’ve been encouraged by all the support they’ve received from the public.
“This has been a day of boundless pain, in part because Congressman Jackson has been a good congressman,” the elder Jackson said outside his home Wednesday evening.
Rev. Jackson said, after resigning from Congress on Wednesday, his son will now devote all his time and energy to recovering from the health problems he’s been facing, including bipolar disorder and gastrointestinal issues.
“I can only say that, during that recovery period, he has fought gallantly,” he said.
“This is a big moment for our family, and yet we’ll face tomorrow with prayer, and hope, and we find so much support from so many people,” Rev. Jackson said. “That is the most encouraging part of all of this; throughout all of the pain, people have taken his need to recover seriously, and how deep his depression has been very seriously, and I’m very grateful for that.”
Rev. Jackson praised his son’s work in Congress for 17 years, noting he helped bring nearly $1 billion in federal funding to the 2nd Congressional District for various projects, including new train stations, and to bring fresh water from Lake Michigan to Ford Heights.
Jackson Jr. had been on a leave of absence from Congress since June 10, and was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
“He will get well in time, but it’s not the kind of illness where you can put a timetable on it. If you’re bleeding, you get a Band-Aid. If you break a leg, you get a splint. With this kind of internal, unresolved challenge, you have to take the time, and the environment,” Rev. Jackson said. “So between the political office, and the pressure, and the politics, and the physical condition, he couldn’t do it all. So he made the decision to choose his health, and we embrace him with that.”
Even before learning of the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, the Jackson family had been caught off-guard by Jesse Jr.’s illness, “because it’s not observed physically.”
Rev. Jackson said, sometime in May or June, his daughter Santita came to him and told him, “’ Dad, Jesse is not at himself, as it were, something is off.’ I said, ‘He’ll be alright.’ She said, ‘You’re not taking me seriously,’ then she called … my wife. We visited him, and talked with him, and he was talking and crying.”
He said he and his son, Yusef, later went to visit Jesse Jr., and “he was in this deep, dark, lonely place.”
“One can look in retrospect and see a kind of move downward that was not very detectable,” Rev. Jackson said. “We had to rush him to the hospital. The reason I knew he was down, because he went voluntarily, he didn’t resist. He was there. So for six months, now, he’s been trying to recover.”
When the family took Jesse Jr. to a hospital in Arizona this summer, Rev. Jackson said doctors told him “his condition was of such, he should not pursue being a congressman because of so much tension in the job.”
After his stay at a facility in Arizona, Jesse Jr. checked into the Mayo Clinic to undergo evaluation for gastrointestinal issues and depression. He was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but his father said he was still determined to return to Congress at some point, despite all of those health issues.
“But there was this tension between his emotional equilibrium on the one hand, and the demands of service,” he said. “He had to make a big decision, and he made that decision by submitting his resignation today.”
Rev. Jackson said his son wanted to hold a press conference to announce his resignation, but his doctors and family didn’t feel he could handle the stress and emotion of such an event without breaking down.
He said Jesse Jr. remains under private medical supervision, and will devote all of his time and energy to his recovery.