State Rep. Matt Eidson, D-Grand Forks, has submitted a letter of resignation effective Sept. 30 to leave the Legislature, citing mental health issues — post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression — following eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps.
In a video posted to social media Thursday evening, Eidson described mental health struggles after he left the Marine Corps in 2015. He had previously served in Iraq, Afghanistan, Japan and South Korea before he was discharged at the rank of sergeant.
Eidson represents legislative District 43, which includes central Grand Forks, roughly north of 32nd Avenue and south of DeMers Avenue. Eidson won election to the seat in 2018 and served in the 2019 session. He was not up for reelection in November.
Kaye Carlson, the District 43 party chairperson, said the Dem-NPL has until Oct. 21 to fill Eidson’s vacant seat.
“We wish him all the best and are appreciative of all he has done for us,” Carlson said in a statement provided by the party. “... District 43 has many qualified candidates. We will be able to complete the interview process and have someone appointed within that time frame."
After he left the military, Eidson moved to Grand Forks and threw himself into academic and local political work, he said, without accounting for his own limitations or the burdens he carried from his service abroad. One day, he said, he became overwhelmed — he quit his field organizing job, stopped responding to emails and stayed in his apartment for weeks. Months later, he was diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety and depression.
For several years, he said, he has had thoughts of suicide.
"This decision is tough because I'm not the kind of person to walk away from anything. I'm not the kind of person to give up,” Eidson said in the video. “I'm not just giving up being a representative, I'm giving up being a master's student at the University of North Dakota. I'm giving up being around a lot of people that I care about."
Eidson said, though, that he sees the decision as an important chance to choose himself and his health. He is relocating to Kansas City, Mo., he said, to live and work closer to his family.
"I can't even begin to tell you how much better I feel, and how much I'm actually looking forward to the future again, which hasn't been the case in a long time,” he said of the decision.
Eidson also has spent time as a freelance reporter for the Grand Forks Herald.
His video, posted to Facebook, quickly drew supportive comments. Rep. Steve Vetter, R-Grand Forks, thanked him for his service and wished him well. Jeffrey Powell, a local leader in Grand Forks’ Democratic Party, offered his support as well, alongside dozens of others.
Senior members of the Dem-NPL praised Eidson’s service in Bismarck. House Minority Leader Josh Boschee said he recalled the House floor going silent to hear Eidson speak — a token of bipartisan respect from his peers.
“I know — without a doubt — the decision to move away from North Dakota and live closer to family was difficult. But it was undeniably the right choice as he focuses on his health and future service to our country,” said state Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks. “We're a better and stronger community thanks to Rep. Eidson's short tenure in the Legislature, and I know he'll be following our progress closely in his next chapter.”
Near the end of his video, Eidson said he would not take calls from reporters and requested that the media allow him personal privacy
Anyone experiencing thoughts of suicide is urged to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or to visit speakingofsuicide.com/resources.