Depression and Its Toll on Lawyers

The California Bar Journal is running an article “Depression and Its Heavy Toll on Lawyers,” in its May 2008 issue.

Here are some of the more eye-popping stats:

  • According to a Johns Hopkins University study, lawyers suffer the highest rate of depression among workers in 104 occupations.
  • A University of Washington study found that 19 percent of lawyers suffered depression compared to 3 percent to 9 percent in the general population.
  • And a University of Arizona study of law students found that they suffer eight to 15 times the anxiety, hostility and depression of the general population.

So no, we’re not imagining that often our fellow lawyers really are more hostile than, say, rocket scientists (who are at least as smart as lawyers, but in different ways and vastly different work environments).

One of the lawyers’ assistance program licensed clinical therapists, Tim Willison, quoted in the article makes this observation about lawyers and emotions: “Emotional stuff is seen as a weakness.” Cf. my post on A Law Student Tells It Like It Is.

The great thing about this CA bar article is the news that Daniel Suvor, a George Washington Univ. 3L who is chair of the ABA’s Law Student Division, is spearheading some focus in law schools about the problem. Hallelujah! (Or, Alleluia if I’m singing in the choir, but I digress.) I’m a big fan of early disclosures, generally, and law school seems like an excellent time to alert future lawyers that they are going to have to deal with depression, either their own or their colleagues’. I can say from experience that dealing with depressed lawyers can drive you crazy and into depression yourself.

Funniest part of the article:

. . . Willison points out, the initial reaction from a lawyer to [the idea of attending] group support is often incredulous: “‘You want me to sit in a room full of attorneys and you tell me that’s going to help?’ I have to offer some reassurance.”

Heh heh heh.

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