This story originally appeared on KERA News.
Dallas County District Attorney Susan Hawk is working again after spending nine weeks getting treatment for major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety. She’s been under scrutiny since she took office in January – from her decision to fire key staffers to the initial secrecy behind her absence.
On her treatment:
“It was nine weeks of five to six hours of groups and one-on-one psychotherapy – that’s about as intense as it gets – every single day. They want you to have leisure time and have time for yourself. You know, go to the gym, eat three meals a day, get eight hours of sleep, take care of yourself. These seem like basic things, but when you’re in a deep state of depression, those things don’t matter to you.”
On criticism that she’s downplaying her depression’s role in her job performance:
“I think that you talk to any renowned psychiatrist, anyone who treats mental illness, knows that you can suffer from major depressive disorder and still be very successful. Some of the greatest leaders were diagnosed with depression – Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln – and to say they weren’t successful because they had depression, or to think that things are ‘hunky dory,’ that shows you there’s still such a stigma against mental illness. If I had cancer, would [fired prosecutor Jennifer Balido] say the same thing? If I had diabetes, if I had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but I was capable of working, would the same thing be said? I think that’s unfortunate.
“I’ll tell you, I love this job so much. I care about the courthouse, the criminal justice system, I’ve dedicated my entire adult life to this. If there was a second or a moment that I felt like I was not capable of doing this job, I would step down.”
On some of the high-profile firings this year:
“There was a total of five people who lost their jobs or resigned, and we have over 400 employees that work here [at the District Attorney’s office]. Those individuals that did resign after I spoke to them, I have no regrets about that. I’ve gone back and re-evaluated every one of the firings. [Investigator Jeff Savage] was the only one that I did regret, the delivery of how that was handled, but he also apologized to me. I thought, ‘well, I get a second chance,’ so I gave him a second chance and the opportunity.”
On what she’s learned about the stigma of mental illness:
“I learned that people don’t seem to treat it like a real illness, but at the same time, it’s a disease. I understand that this is an illness I’ll have to treat for the rest of my life, but it doesn’t mean that it’s an ‘either or’ situation. I can still be successful and be the best district attorney that I can be, do all the great things that I set out to do, and be diagnosed with depression.”
On whether she regrets running for district attorney:
“I wouldn’t change anything [about running]. The only thing I regret is people feeling like they were misled or lied to. That’s the one thing I regret. … I was extremely successful as a judge and as a prosecutor, so I know what I’m capable of doing. If I didn’t think I could do it, I would step down.”
Think: Depression In The Workplace The Aug. 31 episode of KERA’s Think discusses how depression is diagnosed and treated, as well as the challenges of returning to the job after treatment.