National Mental Health Day Luncheon
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 from 12:00 PM to 01:00 PM
John Rogers Hall, Room 201. One hour of professionalism credit available.
Rebecca Williams and a member of Tulsa Lawyers Helping Lawyers is hosting a luncheon to discuss mental health, alcohol and drug issues that impact the legal profession and how lawyers can be prepared.
National Mental Health Day: A time to reflect on professional risks and available resources
By Patrick R. Krill, JD, LLM, MA, LADC
As a law student, you’ve hopefully been exposed to some eye-opening realities about the personal challenges that many of us attorneys are likely to face. Specifically, we’re up to three times more likely to struggle with depression than the general population, more likely to develop addictions, and also more likely to commit suicide. The American Bar Association’s Law Student Division has designated March 27 as National Mental Health Day at law schools across the country, making this an appropriate time to reflect not only on some important statistics, but also their relevance to you and your peers.
Between 20 percent and 40 percent of law school graduates suffer from clinical depression, according to Larry Krieger, a Florida State University law professor who studies these issues1. Another researcher – Dr. Andrew Benjamin – adds that 17 percent of graduates remain depressed two years later, almost twice the rate experienced by the general population2. A 1990 Johns Hopkins University study reports that, indeed, lawyers have the highest depression rate among more than 100 professions studied3. Finally, substance abuse and addiction rates in the legal profession are much higher as well, affecting 15-20 percent of us, according to the ABA4.
These statistics do not represent breaking news – we’ve been talking about them for years. Unfortunately, however, we’re still not talking enough. As you know, the practice of law, and even the education, preparation and admission to practice law, brings with it heightened professional standards and ethical obligations. For this and other reasons, mental health and substance abuse issues remain highly – and unfairly – stigmatized in the legal profession, resulting in far too many students and lawyers continuing to suffer despite the availability of many effective resources.
At this point, you might be thinking “Sure, I sometimes get down about school, job prospects and the future, but who doesn’t?” or “Yes, I do get a bit overwhelmed from school, and, of course, I do my fair share of drinking, but does that mean I have depression, anxiety or a problem with alcohol?” The answer is, “No, not necessarily.” On the other hand, if you’ve been wondering whether you might have a problem, it is probably worth exploring.
If you are experiencing distress or difficulty due to a frequently depressed mood, persistent anxiety or regular substance use, I recommend talking to someone. A good place to start is often your state’s Lawyers Assistance Program (see http://www.americanbar.org/groups/lawyer_assistance), which provides free, confidential consultations to attorneys and law students. Your school’s counseling department or student services office can also direct you to discreet and professional resources.
Even if you’re not having problems now, you remain at risk in this profession. So, I hope you take advantage of any programs and events that your school is sponsoring for National Mental Health Day. Hope, healing and health are all very possible. We just need to address these issues openly and without stigma so that those who need help have the knowledge and comfort to find it.
About the Author
Patrick R. Krill, J.D., LL.M., MA, L.A.D.C., is the assistant director of Hazelden’s Legal Professionals Program in Center City, Minn. Patrick remains an active member of the California and Los Angeles County Bar Associations and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-213-4851.
Hazelden, a national nonprofit organization founded in 1949, helps people reclaim their lives from the disease of addiction. Built on decades of knowledge and experience, Hazelden offers a comprehensive approach to addiction that addresses the full range of patient, family and professional needs, including substance abuse treatment and continuing care for youth and adults; research; higher education; public education and advocacy; and publishing. Learn more at www.hazelden.org.