NEW ORLEANS — After nearly 30 years in government, Senator Karen Carter Peterson suddenly announced she was resigning from her position in the Louisiana legislature.
That's nearly two years before her term is supposed to end.
The announcement came in a statement with Peterson saying she wants to focus on her mental health.
People who know Karen Carter Peterson are remembering her as one of the most powerful Democrats in the state. They say they remember her passion for early childhood education and women's issues, but they are also calling her brave to talk about her personal mental health problems.
Before Karen Carter Peterson gave the prayer to open Thursday's legislative session, she read a very personal statement.
“As many of you know, I've suffered with depression and a gambling addiction for many years. What you may not know, I've participated in, and successfully received, in patient and outpatient treatment for depression, and addiction,” Carter Peterson said from the Senate podium.
But even with saying that on the record, her resignation surprised some who have known her for decades.
“I wish her well, but there is not a single-family in this state that is not going through some kind of issue,” said long-time friend and colleague Austin Badon, Clerk of First City Court.
“It took a lot of strength for her to come this far, but it also took a lot of inner strength for her to talk about this to her colleagues,” said Eyewitness News Political Analyst Clancy Dubos.
They say she accomplished many leadership roles in the state legislature and in the Louisiana, and National Democratic Party because she understood the importance of relationships.
“She came up at a time when relationships were what mattered most, and that's not the way that game is played anymore,” said Dubos.
“Just watching her go to the mic and interact with other people across the aisle, republicans, and, democrats, and independents, she was she was a master at it,” said Badon.
Carter Peterson said in her public statement she was in a robust recovery program and had been “off the bet” for a long time. So it is unclear why the sudden resignation, but she did say she hopes her openness and courage would help others.
“I want you to know that this addiction and this disease is insidious. Many people suffer from it. It's the highest rate of suicide of all addictions,” Peterson said in her prepared statement.
Research shows compulsive gambling often times accompanies other brain illnesses, such as other addictions, depression, anxiety, and illnesses like bipolar disorder, OCD and ADHD.
Visit the Intervention America website for treatment and help.