Supervisor Adam Hill said he is struggling with depression and that he will step back from some of his duties — though how that immediately affects his role on the county board remains uncertain.
While Hill has referenced his struggle with depression before on social media posts, he hasn’t spoken about it much publicly. On Tuesday, during an hourlong phone conversation with The Tribune, he said he wanted to open up about depression and described it as “incredibly painful.”
“Nobody talks about that when they’re in office or have a future in office, because that’s not acceptable. I think that’s a problem,” Hill said. “It’s just so forbidden at every level that it makes it difficult for anybody to think that we’re free to talk of things that still cause shame and stigma.”
In an email statement to The Tribune on Friday afternoon, Hill said, “I’ll be taking some time to reflect on repairing my relationships with people I love and associate with. I need to be more effective in accepting and responding to all our human faults, mine most especially.”
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He did not say whether he would attend the next San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors meeting Feb. 20 or step back from county business.
His office will continue to work on constituent services, and he said he will “maintain as much of a public schedule as possible while getting myself in better shape emotionally and physically.”
“I appreciate everyone’s support and am sorry for those who have been on the receiving end of my depression’s unwelcome visits,” the District 3 supervisor said.
The statement comes just days after the latest public discussion about Hill’s behavior, which has been described as bullying. At a Tuesday board meeting that Hill did not attend, the board voted unanimously to direct staff to draft a code of conduct to guide officials’ interactions with the public after a constituent read aloud a private message from Hill in which he told the man to “f--- off.”
Hill, who has been in office since 2009, addressed his outbursts and his depression and said the two are linked, but that his depression is not an excuse for his actions.
“I’ve struggled with depression nearly my entire life, a situation that for me manifests itself in heightened states of anger and anguish,” Hill said.
“Alas,” he added, “I am responsible for my own actions, and I also know no amount of justification can mitigate troubles of my own making.”
Hill’s experience living with mental illness has made him more sensitive to people who are hurting, he said. He often discusses the plight of the homeless on his social media accounts and in meetings, as he laments and sometimes rants about the lack of action the county is taking for the homeless and poor.
He said he is keenly aware that he is in a much better situation than many people who suffer with mental illness because of his access to resources and a social support network.
“It’s become increasingly clear in our community that a lot of people are suffering from mental illness and they don’t have any support system,” Hill said, noting that many people end up in a cycle of homelessness or jail.
“I’m on the luckier side of things. A lot of the services and programs that we try to offer are simply overwhelmed by the size of the crisis itself,” he said.
That his depression-caused pain expresses itself “bluntly in frustrated outbursts” has only been exacerbated by the current political culture, he said.
“I can’t seem to get anybody to care about the working people here who are not really visible. In terms of what they have to endure. How it effects them with financial stresses and not being able to take care of themselves,” he said.
“There are a lot of people living lives of quiet desperation,” he added.