Ruben Gallego says PTSD treatment was 'to be a better father'

The Arizona lawmaker spoke to ABC News about mental health with 3 colleagues.

April 11, 2023, 9:06 AM

Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego said his decision to address his post-traumatic stress disorder was driven by a desire to be a better father.

In a recent sit-down with ABC News alongside Reps. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., and Richie Torres, D-N.Y., and Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., Gallego said coming to grips with his mental health helped him better understand himself -- in turn helping him become a better parent and better person.

"It helps you be a better father, better husband, a better person by being able to really understand what's going on inside your heart, inside your soul, inside your brain," said Gallego, a Democrat who is now running for Senate against incumbent independent Kyrsten Sinema.

Gallego has one son and is expecting a daughter with his wife, Sydney.

"I want to be a better father, and that's why I did it," he said of seeking treatment. "And that's why I continue forward."

Reflecting on that process could be emotional, with Gallego choking up during the interview.

Watch more on ABC News Live Prime.

A Marine Corps veteran, he deployed to Iraq in 2005 as an infantryman. His company saw fierce fighting and double-digit casualties.

PHOTO: Rep. Ruben Gallego talks about mental health during a discussion with ABC News and other lawmakers, March 23, 2023.
Rep. Ruben Gallego talks about mental health during a discussion with ABC News and other lawmakers, March 23, 2023.
ABC News

"I suffer from PTSD, from the war, and just a lot of the things that I suffer from there. I sometimes feel a lot of regret. I feel sometimes that I should have gone instead of some of my guys that went. And sometimes I feel maybe a little hypersensitive about my surroundings," he said in the interview with his colleagues, in which they spoke about mental health to lessen public stigma and highlight solutions and treatment.

The topic was thrust into the political spotlight after Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., checked himself into inpatient care in mid-February for what his staff called severe depression. He is expected to return to the Senate the week of April 17.

While Fetterman was greeted with bipartisan praise upon his admission to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for being public about his struggles and seeking help, those in far-right circles suggested he was unfit for office and targeted him with conspiracy theories.

Gallego told ABC News backlash like that could make it more difficult for people to seek treatment.

"I've certainly seen it, after I spoke openly about my PTSD. ... Remember that we're all human. And at some point, someone in your life is going to meet and find themselves in this condition, and you're going to want an open and welcoming society to really encourage them to get help, to make sure that they're seeking a good pathway to better themselves," he said.

"You could play political games," he added. "I put myself up here, I'll take the hits. But just remember that there's a lot of other people that really are going to shy away from seeking help because they're afraid of being stigmatized. And that's only going to cause more and more problems."