Senator John Hottinger reveals struggle with Depression

(WCCO) St. Paul In a move some call courageous, Sen. John Hottinger revealed he was hospitalized for depression while he was Senate Majority Leader. Hottinger announced Monday he will leave the Senate when his term expires. During the pressure-filled, chaotic 2003 Legislative session, then-Democratic leader Hottinger agreed to deep and controversial Republican budget cuts to end the stalemate. “Frankly, I was suicidal,” Hottinger said about that period in time. 

In a documentary by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Hottinger said he was in a deep depression at the time and thought about killing himself, before calling a friend for help. “My friend was very supportive,” Hottinger said. “Got me over to Regions Hospital, where I self-admitted myself for four days.” After his discharge from Regions, Hottinger had therapy, three hours a day, three times a week, for six months, as well as medication. He said his depression was not a factor in decisions the Democrats made that year. He said he is better now and says it is not the reason he won’t seek re-election. “I can understand how you might make the correlation between positive mental health and leaving the Legislature,” Hottinger said. 

Advocates for the mentally ill said Hottinger’s experience with depression is not unusual and neither is his recovery. “People recover,” said Sue Abderholden with the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “They can go on to great things. It doesn’t mean the end of their life as they know it and so when people start feeling really bad, they really need to seek out help and treatment.” 

Hottinger hopes sharing his story will help erase the social stigma associated with mental illness. “Mental illness, depression, excessive anxiety, the variety of things, is an illness,” Hottinger said. “It’s not a character defect.” Hottinger said he is not sure what he will do when his term expires next year, but said he plans to focus on other interests, including writing a book on baseball.

 By Pat Kessler