Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo takes leave of absence after surprise statement
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo is taking a leave of absence, she announced on Monday, August 7.
In a letter to followers and constituents, Hidalgo cited treatment for clinical depression — something she has been coping with "for some time" as the reason she is taking a step back.
"Based on my doctor’s recommendation, I checked myself into an out-of-state facility to receive inpatient treatment in late July," Hidalgo writes. "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."
Commissioner Rodney Ellis will preside over Commissioners Court in her absence, per rules that the longest-serving member on the court steps in during such a leave. Meanwhile, Hidalgo's chief of staff will continue to manage the day-to-day operations in her office, per the letter.
Minutes after her official announcement, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner quickly issued a statement of support.
"As difficult as this may be, Judge Lina Hidalgo is not alone in facing this challenge," said Turner in the statement. "A 2023 report showed that over 30% of adults meet the criteria for having depression and/or anxiety. Thankfully, she is in the care of doctors who recognize that this is treatable and is committed to getting better."
"All of us know someone who suffers from depression," he added. "The good news is that now more than ever, resources are available for those who need help. My hope is that this experience can serve as a teachable moment and encourage others who need support to seek it. We cannot let stigma stand in the way of treatment. Our thoughts and prayers are with Judge Hidalgo."
Others were more pointed in their statement regarding Hidalgo's news, such as conservative talk show host Michael Berry. "I hope she gets help for her mental issues, and I hope she resigns from the office she is not qualified to hold. Shame on the puppeteers who installed her into a position that frightened her & led her to this," he tweeted.
"Depression is not personal weakness," Ellis told the Houston Chronicle. "It's a medical diagnosis and it requires treatment the same way that a stroke, cancer or heart disease requires treatment."
"There's a time when all of us ought to be big enough to rise above petty politics," he added. "This is one of those times."
A local expert also voiced his support for Hidalgo's decision. “Treatments for clinical depression are effective, and while I have never met Lina Hidalgo, I am pleased to see her share that she is getting the treatment she needs,” Dr. Robert Boland, vice president and chief of staff at The Menninger Clinic in Houston, tells CultureMap.
“Depression can affect anyone regardless of gender, age, or personal or professional success. We applaud her for bravely sharing that she is taking important steps and time to devote herself to recovering. We hope the public will respect her privacy as this is a deeply personal decision to seek assistance.”
For her part, Hidalgo promises to remain available in the event of an emergency and to staff. She also encourages others to seek treatment if they or anyone they care for are are dealing with depression, even offering county resources such as online help or calling 9-8-8. She adds in the letter she hopes to "share more" about her experience upon her return.
A rising star in democratic circles — and a lightning rod since she was elected — Hidalgo landed on Time Magazine’s 2021 Time100 Next list and was a recipient of the John F. Kennedy New Frontier Award, as CultureMap reported.
Most recently, she was the subject of a glowing Vogue profile in April and was just named to President Joe Biden's reelection committee.
This is a breaking news story.