For far too long, anxiety and depression have been taboo topics in the legal profession. Lawyers are often viewed as people who are supposed to ‘have it all together’. Until recently, mental health struggles didn’t fit most people’s image of a successful lawyer.
The pandemic has shown us that anxiety and depression can affect anyone regardless of their professional roles. Whether you’re an executive at a large corporation or an associate, you aren’t exempt from experiencing mental health struggles.
Talking about struggles with mental health can be uncomfortable for many lawyers. Some try to mask their depression and anxiety by working harder to climb the corporate ladder. Others remain silent about getting help because they are afraid their employers and clients may find out.
What happens when lawyers ignore feelings of anxiety and depression?
As a lawyer, you can no longer afford to pretend that you’re okay when you’re struggling. Ignoring mental health issues has led to disastrous effects for many people in the legal profession.
- Lawyers struggle with depression at a rate of two to three times more than people in other professions.
- In 2021, job burnout prompted 23 percent of associates to quit their law firms.
- Overall, lawyers have a 35 percent divorce rate.
- 36% of lawyers struggle with alcohol abuse.
- A growing number of law students rely on stimulants such as Adderrall to keep them awake so they can study.
- 20% of lawyers report that they use illicit drugs excessively.
What are the signs that you may be struggling with depression?
People experience depression in a variety of ways. Some people may develop low-grade depression, major depressive disorder, postpartum depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), psychotic depression or situational depression.
Common signs of depression may include:
- Weight Gain or Loss
- Trouble Making Decisions or Concentrating
- Feeling Agitated, Restless or Run Down
- Feeling Guilty or Worthless
- Trouble Sleeping
- Suicidal Thoughts
- Change in Appetite
- Delusion, Paranoia and/or Hallucinations
- Mood Swings
- Feeling Overwhelmed
If you experience any of these symptoms, contact a health professional as soon as possible. That way, you can get a treatment plan to manage your mental health and cope with daily stressors.
What mental health resources are available for lawyers?
It’s time for us to get serious about addressing depression and anxiety in the legal profession. If you are struggling with any mental health concern, know that you are not alone. There are people and organizations available to provide you with the tools to overcome this problem.
Hundreds of resources are available for lawyers who are struggling with anxiety, depression, substance abuse, stress and other mental health issues. Many companies have resources available through employee wellness programs. You can also contact your state bar association for assistance.
Here are a few mental health resources to explore.
- The Lawyer Depression Project (Peer Support Program)
- Mental Health Minute: Depression (Video)
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- Narcotics Anonymous
- Alcoholics Anonymous
- Lawyers With Depression
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