Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo has taken a temporary leave of absence to receive in-patient medical treatment for clinical depression, according to a statement from her office Monday.
The statement notes she has been at an out-of-state treatment facility since late July, and hopes to be able to resume her normal schedule by early September.
Commissioner Rodney Ellis, the longest serving county commissioner, will preside over official proceedings in Hidalgo’s absence, per commissioners court rules. During Hidalgo’s absence, however, she “will remain in communication with key county staff and available to discharge her duties as County Judge.”
In a statement addressed to county residents, Hidalgo noted she is among 21 million American adults who suffer from depression.
“For some time, I have been coping with this challenge, and it was undiagnosed until last month,” the statement says. “Based on my doctor’s recommendation, I checked myself into an out-of-state facility to receive inpatient treatment in late July. It is important for me personally and professionally to confront this issue swiftly, so I will be taking temporary leave from the office while I am receiving treatment. My medical care team and I are hopeful that I will be able to resume my normal schedule by early September.”
The Chron adds on.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis, the longest standing member of Commissioners Court, will take over Hidalgo’s duties at meetings while she is away.
Ellis was quick to dispel the stigma surrounding mental healthcare and applauded Hidalgo for getting treatment.
“Depression is not personal weakness,” Ellis said. “It’s a medical diagnosis and it requires treatment the same way that a stroke, cancer or heart disease requires treatment.”
Hidalgo, an emerging and high-profile Democrat, has become a favorite target of conservative activists. Ellis urged critics on both sides to suspend their attacks while she is receiving care.
“There’s a time when all of us ought to be big enough to rise above petty politics,” Ellis said. “This is one of those times.”
While people are typically reluctant to see a psychiatrist or mental health provider because of stigma, they’re far more hesitant to be admitted to an inpatient treatment program, according to Dr. Asim Shah, professor and executive vice chair in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor College of Medicine.
“Admission is 10 times, 20 times, 30 times more reluctance,” Shah said.
On average, recovery after inpatient treatment can be successful.
“Usually the outcome we expect is complete recovery, but that requires people to continue to take medication,” Shah said.
Hidalgo’s chief of staff will continue managing office operations in her absence, she said.
A statement from Judge Hidalgo is beneath the fold, and a statement from Mayor Turner is here. Not much to say other than I wish her a full and speedy recovery and I look forward to seeing her back at Commissioners Court in September.
I am writing to share with you that I am one of the over 21 million American adults that is suffering from clinical depression. For some time, I have been coping with this challenge, and it was undiagnosed until last month. Based on my doctor’s recommendation, I checked myself into an out-of-state facility to receive inpatient treatment in late July. It is important for me personally and professionally to confront this issue swiftly, so I will be taking temporary leave from the office while I am receiving treatment. My medical care team and I are hopeful that I will be able to resume my normal schedule by early September. I remain passionate about Harris County and its people and look forward to returning at full strength.
From the beginning of my tenure as County Judge, I have stressed the importance of mental health services. Depression and other mental health illnesses are part of the human condition, and mental health illnesses should be treated just like any other health condition. I feel so strongly that we should be open and forthright about mental health issues, which historically have been tarred with stigma that has prevented people from seeking the treatment they need.
My experience has been difficult, but I am taking it as an opportunity to be open about my own struggle, my own challenges, and to encourage others who need help to seek treatment. All of us know someone — a friend, a coworker, or a family member — who suffers from depression. I encourage every person who is struggling with mental health challenges to look for support from your community, your loved ones, and your doctor. If you need help finding support in Harris County, the Department of Public Health maintains a list of mental health resources that residents can find at: publichealth.harriscountytx.gov/Resources/Mental-Health-Resources, or you can call 9-8-8. Remember to prioritize your own health and that you are not alone.
I will remain available in the event of an emergency, and the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management remains fully engaged and prepared to respond to any potential incident or disaster during this time. I will also continue to remain available to staff. Since Commissioners Court rules indicate that the senior (longest standing) member of the court shall preside in my absence, Commissioner Rodney Ellis has graciously agreed to preside over Commissioners Court in my absence. Additionally, my chief of staff will continue to manage the day-to-day operations in my office.
I am grateful for your understanding, as well as the support of my colleagues, friends, and family. I hope to share more about my experience upon my return.
— Lina Hidalgo