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Prominent Texas Judge Takes a Break for Mental Health

Harris County's Lina Hidalgo says she checked in for inpatient treatment for clinical depression
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 8, 2023 10:49 AM CDT
Prominent Texas Judge Takes a Break for Mental Health
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, center, flanked by Houston Police Chief Troy Finner, left, and US Rep. Al Green, right, speaks during a news conference on Nov. 6, 2021, in Houston.   (AP Photo/Michael Wyke, File)

A Texas judge put out a surprise announcement this week, announcing she'll be taking a work hiatus to deal with a newly diagnosed condition. In a Monday statement released by her office, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo informed constituents that she had checked herself into an inpatient facility late last month to contend with clinical depression. "It is important for me personally and professionally to confront this issue swiftly," she wrote. "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."

Hidalgo noted that she wanted to be open about her struggles to help erase the "stigma" around mental health issues. The depression Hidaldo is facing is a condition that's "on the rise," according to a UTHealth Houston psychiatrist. "After the COVID-19 pandemic, there was approximately a 30% rise in cases of depression ... which means a lot, because we are dealing with a major mental health crisis in our society," Dr. Lokesh Shahani tells Click2Houston. "But ... the silver lining with it is most people are coming out and are open about it."

Hidalgo, who the Texas Tribune says has been considered a "rising star among Texas Democrats," last year announced a $14 million-plus program that would boost mental health services in Harris County. She says in her statement that she'll still be reachable by staff in case of an emergency, that her chief of staff will keep the day-to-day operations of her office going, and that Commissioner Rodney Ellis "has graciously agreed to preside over Commissioners Court in my absence." Hidalgo hopes to be back at work by early September. (If you or someone you know needs immediate mental health support, please call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.)

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