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Speaker should rethink decision to lead Hosue

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POSTED: November 23, 2009 10:06 a.m.
Georgia House Speaker Glenn Richardson, R-Dallas, tried to kill himself Nov. 8. A few days later, the former Paulding County attorney issued a news release acknowledging the suicide attempt.
Here is part of what Richardson wrote in his statement:
“Depression is a disease which affects millions of people every day in this country. Like most people who suffer from depression, I regularly see a physician and take prescription medications.
“While depression seems to be resolved on occasion, when personal trials or tribulations arise, it flares back up. That is what occurred with me. ... I am thankful that because of medical intervention I have instead been able to now receive help and support.
“Just as the estimated 17 million other Americans who share the challenge of depression, I am ashamed and embarrassed. ... It is my hope that by coming forward and admitting my depression and attempt to take my own life that others may have the strength to seek treatment, too.
“The effects of depression peak during the holiday season we are now approaching. If you know someone who is struggling, reach out to them. Listen to them. Take their fears and concerns seriously.”
Richardson said he has suffered from depression for more than two years since becoming estranged and then divorced from his wife. Opponents publicily accused him of having an inappropriate relationship with a lobbyist.
Since issuing his statement the speaker has apparently resumed a limited political and commercial schedule and says he will continue to serve in the House, even as speaker if his party supports him. Statements from Republican leaders imply they will continue to support Richardson, who was first elected to the House in 1996 and as minority leader by Republicans in 2003. The next year, when the GOP captured the majority in the House, Richardson was chosen to be speaker.
As Richardson said in his statement, we know there is stigma attached to mental health problems, especially when they lead to extreme actions such as suicide.
He deserves praise for his bravery in bringing the issue to the public’s attention. But he should also consider whether he is serving the best interest of his constituents and the state as a whole by remaining in the role of speaker.
The speaker of the House wields a lot of authority, being able to influence nearly every facet of state policy and an annual budget of more than $18 billion. The gavel should be wielded by a steady hand.
 Richardson will have the opportunity to demonstrate his abilities during the next couple years, and if elected can return to the speaker’s chair.
 

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