Report: Patrick Treated for Depression in 1980s

Texas Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, speaks with editor Evan Smith at TribLive on September 19, 2013.
Texas Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, speaks with editor Evan Smith at TribLive on September 19, 2013.

*Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.

Reports of a state senator’s 1980s treatment for depression and exhaustion became an issue in the lieutenant governor’s race late Thursday, when the Quorum Report, a political newsletter, unearthed court papers detailing Dan Patrick’s medical history.

In his deposition in a lawsuit, Patrick, whose legal name at the time was Dannie Scott Goeb, said he was diagnosed as having a chemical imbalance in the early 1980s and said he was hospitalized at Spring Shadows Glen in “late ’84 or early ’85, possibly.” He also said the treatment consisted entirely of rest. “I absolutely did nada,” he said in the deposition. “You know, there may have been something I don’t remember. But, you know, I did nothing but sleep, sleep, sleep.”

He was asked in the deposition, related to a lawsuit over an altercation with a newspaper reporter, whether he had suffered a nervous breakdown, and said “no.” He also said he had not told any doctors he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Later in the deposition, Patrick said he was admitted into Memorial City Hospital in June 1982 for “a week, two weeks” of rest. Asked if he considered that “a significant event in his life,” he answered “no.” And he said that the diagnosis of a chemical imbalance was made after tests taken during that stay.

 

In response to the report, Patrick’s campaign said that he had sought and received medical attention for “mild depression and exhaustion” and called the revelations a desperate attack on the eve of early voting by Patrick’s Republican runoff opponent, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. The San Antonio Express-News reported it received copies of the depositions from Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who ran for lieutenant governor but didn't make the runoff. Patterson, asked about the documents, texted a response: "I haven't seen them. They've been read to me."

“Nearly 30 years ago, Sen. Patrick sought medical attention to help him cope with mild depression and exhaustion,” Allen Blakemore, Patrick’s political consultant, said in a news release. “Under the care of a medical doctor, he voluntarily admitted himself for treatment and spent a short time in the hospital. He has not required additional treatment or medication for nearly 30 years.

“This has not been a secret; for years on his radio station, he has regularly talked about depression and discussed the importance of early treatment when dealing with depression,” Blakemore said. “He has done this to help others and remove any social stigma for those who seek or are considering seeking treatment. He has conducted several interviews with Texas journalists on the subject. None felt inclined to write the story.

“Following an interview in 2011, Senator Patrick obtained a letter from his treating physician for public release,” Blakemore said.

In that letter, Dr. Stephen Kramer of Houston wrote that Patrick was a patient of his in the mid-1980s, and that Patrick “entered the hospital on a voluntary basis for the treatment of depression.” Kramer wrote that the symptoms “decreased within a short period of time” and Patrick was released. “There was no evidence of cognitive impairment,” the doctor wrote. “Since he has been asymptomatic for all these years, a reoccurrence is unlikely.”

Patrick finished ahead of the incumbent in the March primary, with 41.4 percent of the vote to Dewhurst’s 28.3 percent, and each has been attacking the other’s reputation leading up to next week’s early voting in the May 27 runoff. A spokesman for the Dewhurst campaign said they had nothing to do with the reports; the Quorum Report did not say where it got the information about Patrick.

"My heart goes out to Dan and his family for what they've endured while coping with his condition," Dewhurst said through a spokesman.

Three Republican senators who have endorsed Patrick — medical doctors all — jumped to the challenger’s defense.

“A personal attack of this kind sinks to an unprecedented low, shamelessly attempting to embarrass Dan Patrick for seeking the appropriate medical care to treat a minor bout with depression that occurred almost 30 years ago,” Sens. Donna Campbell of New Braunfels, Bob Deuell of Greenville and Charles Schwertner of Georgetown said in a statement sent late Thursday night. “According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 10 American adults suffer from some form of depression in their lifetime, something which the perpetrators of this attack apparently believe should disqualify them from serving their communities or contributing to society.

“We sincerely hope David Dewhurst was not responsible for this sleazy attack and would encourage him to stop the negative personal attacks and focus his campaign on the issues,” they wrote.

Friday morning, a fourth senator, Jane Nelson, the chairwoman of the Senate's Health and Human Services Committee, also issued a statement condemning the attack. 

"As chair of the Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee, I was shocked at the recent attack on one of our members, invading his medical privacy — and hitting a new low in Texas politics," wrote Nelson, a Republican. "At a time when we are working so hard for society to accept mental health as they would any other medical condition, it is despicable to turn Senator Patrick's private health information from 30 years ago into a campaign issue. We are better than this."