KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The man thought to be the front-runner in the Kansas City mayor race has suddenly dropped out.
Jason Kander said he needs to help himself first and get treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, so he won't be running for mayor in 2019.
In a statement, he said in part he knew something was deeply wrong and was scared to acknowledge his true symptoms of PTSD.
"To allow me to concentrate on my mental health, I've decided that I will not be running for mayor of Kansas City," Kander wrote.
Kander said he struggled with the idea of going public with his mental health battle. He decided to go forward in part because he wants to help other veterans know they're not alone in solving their problems.
For years, Kander said he tried to convince himself he didn't have PTSD, depression or suicidal thoughts.
According to a study by the Department of Veterans Affairs, 20 veterans take their own lives every day.
In his letter withdrawing from the Kansas City mayoral race, he wrote, "So many men and women who served our country did so much more than me. I can`t have PTSD, I told myself, because I didn`t earn it."
VFW Program Manager Lynn Rolf got help for his PTSD after 14 years and said Kander's thought is common among veterans.
"A lot of veterans do marginalize their experience," Rolf said.
Kander wrote Tuesday that he was scared of the stigma around getting help.
His letter said in part, "After 11 years of trying to outrun PTSD, I have finally concluded that it`s faster than me. I have to stop running."
"We try to deny it," Rolf said. "Or we try to act tougher than we really are. It usually takes a wake up call for us to reach out and ask for help."
Kander went to the VA on Monday and wrote that he's in the process of setting up regular treatment there.
Thomas Demark, a staff psychiatrist at the VA's PTSD Clinic, said practitioners use about five types of therapy to help veterans with PTSD like Kander.
"We have psychologists that can do different forms of talk therapy to help the veterans process their traumatic events and manage symptoms," he said.
Demark wants veterans to know there are several ways to get help. You can start by getting a referral from your primary care doctor. You can walk in at the main VA campus on Linwood Boulevard, and you can always call the VA Veterans Crisis Line at 1–800–273–8255.
Kander wrote that he tried to tried to find his way around his issues without that kind of help and support. He thought a mayoral run and possible victory would fix everything -- but he said things only got worse.
Rolf said every veteran has different stressers and triggers.
"It could be just the sheer stress that`s involved in the campaign," she said.
Rolf said he wishes Kander well in his treatment and also hopes others will be encouraged to seek help.
"I think it`s very positive for someone as influential as him who had the spotlight, I think it`s a great opportunity to keep the conversation out there," Rolf said. "Let veterans know they aren't the only one."
Read Kander's full statement here.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, we urge you to get help immediately.
Go to a hospital, call 911 or call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433).