In 2017, President Obama, in his final Oval Office interview, was asked who gave him hope for the future of the country, and Jason Kander was the first name he mentioned. Suddenly, Jason Kander was a national figure.
Jason Kander is a veteran in the War in Afghanistan, former Missouri Secretary of State and a former contender for mayor of Kansas City. Though expected to win his bid for mayor in 2018, he unexpectedly dropped out of the mayoral race one month before the election.
In a Medium article, Kander revealed his ongoing battle with post-traumatic stress disorder and his plans to seek treatment.
He suffered insomnia and night terrors. He patrolled his house at night with a gun. He had symptoms such as back pain, a twitch in his left eyelid and an aversion to sitting in restaurants with his back to the door.
An 8-year veteran of the U.S. Army, Kander served as an intelligence officer. “My job was to go out and meet with people as an intelligence officer who might be, you know, bad guys who want to kill me. But I had to go into the meetings and get the information and come out,” says Kander. While it wasn’t what he considered traditional combat, the effects of being in his position were traumatic nonetheless.
“It’s exhausting to be on alert all the time and then, when you combine that with about 10 years without a good night’s sleep, you just get worn out,” he said. “When you get worn out enough and have all these other feelings of shame and guilt and then you’re having these symptoms, eventually you get depressed. When you’re depressed long enough, eventually you have suicidal thoughts.”
For 11 years, Kander tried to “run away” from his trauma by chasing accomplishments and success in politics. Then, on October 1, 2018, he called the VA Medical Center in Kansas City and spoke to a psychiatrist about the persistent anger and suicidal ideation he had been hiding for years.
“I got really emotional,” says Kander. And then she proceeded to ask me some questions about my service and about, you know, what I've experienced and when my symptoms were now. And it dawned on me during this conversation that I'm just like all the other veterans who need help.”
Kander’s decision to seek help came just over one month prior to the mayoral election. Ultimately, he chose himself over his political aspirations. “I can’t work on myself and run a campaign the way I want to at the same time, so I’m choosing to work on my depression,” he wrote.
Kander got help from the Veterans Community Project in Kansas City. A year later, he led the nationwide expansion of VCP. “When I decided to suspend my political career and seek treatment for PTSD, Veterans Community Project was there to help me through the process,” said Kander. "Veterans' homelessness is a national crisis, so I'm proud to join an organization that has created a model to end it. By expanding nationally, our goal is for VCP to both end veterans' homelessness and help millions of other veterans get the services they've earned."
In the process of healing himself, Kander found a new calling in life. With VCP, his ultimate goal is to eliminate Veteran homelessness nationwide. Earlier this year, he wrote a New York Times Bestselling memoir (“Invisible Storm: A Soldier's Memoir of Politics and PTSD”), and went on a national tour to discuss his diagnosis and healing process.
“Post-traumatic growth is achievable and worth pursuing and if that idea interests you, I have a book you should read,” Kander wrote on the fourth anniversary of his announcement to step back from politics. Meanwhile, VCP continues to break ground on new tiny housing developments for Veterans throughout the country.
If you know someone who may be experiencing PTSD, the most important thing you can do is to help that person get the right diagnosis and treatment. The US Department of Veteran Affairs has a PTSD portal here.
*Jason Kander is not affiliated with Restore Hyper Wellness.