The statistics are, well, depressing when it comes to the rates of depression among law students and attorneys. While law students do not differ from the general population in terms of depression prior to starting law school (about 7%), approximately 32% of law students experience depression by the end of their first year in law school. This trend continues through law school to the point of 40% of students experiencing depression by the end of the third year. After law school and the bar exam, rates of depression go down a bit but generally stay at over twice the rate of the general population. Lawyers in all areas of law are faced with various stressors (financial, pressure, long hours, unemployment, etc.) that contribute to their impaired well-being.
Last week, specifically October 8th, was the 25th Annual National Depression Screening Day and much effort is being made to encourage people to get screened for depression. Not only does depression cost individuals in terms of energy, peace of mind, time with friends and family, mental well-being, and their physical health, but depression also costs the economy billions of dollars in lost productivity. For a solo or small firm attorney, depression can result in significant financial stress and, at times, can impact their work which can lead to complaints.
Depression is also one of the more treatable conditions that we encounter. Like most mental health and physical concerns, depression is best treated early. The earlier you recognize that depression is creeping in, the sooner you can take action to address it. So check out one of the many depression screening tools available online. Or call LCL and talk to a clinician. Whatever your plan, don’t put it off. Act now!
Shawn Healy, PhD